Hope City Board approves amendment to increase spending limits, agrees to purchase sign and considers City Hall fixes

From left to right, City Directors Mark Ross, Steve Montgomery, Reginald Easter, City Manager Catherine Cook, Mayor Don Still, Vice-Mayor Kiffinea Talley and Director Linda Clark.

The Hope Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to raise the limits on purchasing without a bidding process, declared an unused pedestrian bridge surplus property and voted to accept a proposal for a sign at the Park Pavilion area. It also heard details about the next round of maintenance work on City Hall.

After the prayer, the pledge of allegiance and the approval of the last meeting’s minutes, the first item on the agenda was an ordinance to amend Purchase Ordinance #1686, passed December 20, 2020. Since then, Arkansas passed a law increasing the maximum dollar limit municipal governments could use to buy goods, services or building projects without having to receive bids from competing vendors.

Police Chief and Assistant City Manager J.R. Wilson, presenting the amendment, told the board of its options. He said the board did not have to raise the limits, could raise them to less than the state provided for or could raise them to the maximum the state allowed. He also emphasized the processes that would remain in place to control what department heads could spend, such as their being limited to $5,000 for what could be spent in a year without approval from the city manager.

Wilson said the legislature has plans to review the relevant law every five years to account for inflation. Inflation, he said, was a factor in the need to amend the ordinance, but also in an era of supply-chain problems, being able to repair heavy equipment more quickly, which the amendment will allow, would be to the city’s advantage.

The Amendment Ordinance changes section five of Purchase Ordinance #1686 so that “purchases of goods and services exceeding $10,000 but not exceeding $35,000 requires three written quotes from potential vendors and a written purchase order approved by the City Manager prior to purchase.” (Amendments to the language in italics.)

The Amendment Ordinance also changes language in section six listing the purchases that require competitive bidding. “1. Goods and services in excess of $35,000. 2. Public improvements inclusive of major repairs, alterations, or the erection of any building or structure in excess of $50,000.”

Finally, the Amendment Ordinance includes an eighth item in the list under “Competitive Bid Process,” which commits to written law the process by which competitive bidding is done. City Manager Catherine Cook said the merit of adding this was that city department heads, when asked how the process works, could refer inquirers to this language:

The board voted unanimously to approve the ordinance.

In other business, an item being stored near Fair Park’s basketball courts came closer to being removed. No use could be found, said Wilson, again presenting the proposal, for a “bridge-like structure” because of the need to respect laws regarding flood plains. The board voted to allow the structure to be declared surplus property and placed on sale.

For the next item, Cook said, “I throw myself on the mercy of the board,” since it had proven so difficult to find a company willing and able to provide a sign that met the board’s preference for something similar to what a California park is using. She thanked Director Mark Ross for finding Stewart Signs of Sarasota, Florida. The company sent a proof showing the name Pavilion Park I in red block lettering. The sign would be in the form of three dimensional letters attached individually to a brick or concrete platform.

In the packet of documents distributed to board members and attendees before the meeting an estimate from Stewart Signs is included for $6,150 for the company to provide “Custom Metal Channel Letters-Non-Illuminated.” The measurements would be 18”X 193” -5” Depth.  

In answer to a question from Director Ross, Cook affirmed that the total budget for the project is $15,000. Ross said the cost for the base would bring the total cost to “ten or fifteen” thousand. Director Steve Montgomery asked whether the funds were coming from the city’s tourism tax. Cook said it was from money transferred to the general fund from the tax.

Ross made the motion to purchase the lettering from Stewart Signs, specifying they would be “Bobcat red.” By a voice vote, the board unanimously approved. “I will sign this proof in the morning,” Cook said.

The next item saw City Manager Cook present to the board quotes from MTS Contracting, a firm with headquarters in Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri, for pressure washing City Hall.  According to a document from MTS, the work would also include patching and painting of areas where the terra cotta has come off, filling in low areas and ruts caused by equipment with dirt and grass seed and finally, to “scrape off all interior loose and deteriorated plaster not to exceed 1,920 square feet, patch new repaired areas with interior paint to match existing as close as possible.” The total cost for the project would be $84,840.

The second option in the document would include patching and repairing fewer places but would still include the full pressure wash. It would cost $69,960.

Cook urged the board to study the document and to visit First United Methodist Church in Prescott to see MTS doing similar work there. Mayor Don Still said the matter would be taken up again in two weeks. In answer to his question of whether the pressure washing and terra cotta repair project was accounted for in the budget, Cook said it would be covered by an already approved $100,000 allotment.

Asked what work would be undertaken in the future on the 96-year-old City Hall building, Cook said window and ceiling tile replacement would be next. She also said the vintage 1991 heating and cooling system would need to be tackled soon because many of its units were down and ventilation was not up to post-COVID standards. Then the building’s doors would need repair. At present one set of doors on the building’s south side are out of commission and blocked by a barrier.

In her report, Cook said the Sixth Street project is proceeding and the city had already gotten a $1.5 million bill from the Arkansas Highway Department for its services. Bids for the Streetscape Project would be let for bid on May 25. She encouraged everyone “to keep an optimistic thought,” since the project will require a skillful contractor. Cook said the city would be reaching out to Township Builders, which completed the regional downtown area.

She praised the work of the many organizations and independent volunteers who took part in Citywide Cleanup Day on Saturday, April 23. She said city workers had collected 42 loads of trash, with residents collecting 20. In cubic yardage, the city collected 550.5 of trash, with residents collecting 210.5.

Cook also reminded the board and attendees that Saturday, May 7 would be Train Day and Trade Day in the downtown area.

Parks Superintendent Summer Powell mentioned making contact with a state cornhole league with the goal of hosting a tournament in Hope. The league has already had events in Texarkana and Ashdown.

Mayor Don Still noted that a bicentennial sign will be unveiled by the Arts station on 9 a.m. Friday.

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