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Hope City Board Discusses Federal Funding, City Hall Roof Bids and COVID-19 Mask Ordinance

The Hope City Board meeting was called to order at 7pm on July 7, via Zoom, to discuss the matters on the agenda. 

The meeting began with invocation and the pledge of allegiance followed by the reviewal of the minutes from last months meeting. The minutes were approved by the board. 

CONSIDER RESOLUTION: CITIES ARE ESSENTIAL
The majority of the COVID-19 relief aid provided by the Federal Government has not yet been accessible to any cities and counties. COVID-19 has had many effects on cities over the last several months, so the Arkansas Municipal League has requested for each City in the state of Arkansas to consider a resolution that would enlighten the Congressional Delegation of the importance for federal assistance and how it is needed for municipalities. 

The resolution reads,

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that HOPE calls on Congress to allocate fair and direct federal support to all of America’s communities, regardless of population size; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this funding must be flexible and address not only the additional expenses incurred by communities to respond to the pandemic emergency, but also the dramatic budgetary shortfalls resulting from pauses in commerce, tourism, other economic engines; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that local governments will ensure federal funds are immediately used to rebuild and reopen the national economy; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that funding will keep middle class workers employed and critical services operating; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that HOPE, AR has been part of the emergency response and now calls on Congress to build a united national partnership for a safe, healthy, prosperous life.”

“The Congressional Delegation of Arkansas and other states, have been in contact with their representative at the National League of Cities and Municipal League of the various states about the need for this funding in the hopes that future congressional funding meets the needs of cities and counties in the future,” said City Manager, Catherine Cook. 

Director Mark Ross made a motion to entertain the resolution and it was seconded by Director Dr. Trevor Coffee. The resolution was approved by the board. 

CONSIDER BIDS CITY HALL ROOF
Bids for the job of repairing the City Hall roof were opened as of July 7, 2020. Only one bid has been received so far from a company located in North Little Rock with a bid amount of $416,000. The bid is priced too high for the estimate gathered by the City, so the contractor that placed the bid will be contacted to attempt lowering the bid amount to a more reasonable price and will present it to the board at a later date.

The board decided to bypass the item in order to allow Cook to negoiate a lower bid and they will discuss the project at the next meeting.

CONSIDER PROPOSED ORDINANCE: REGARDING THE USE OF MASKS
The Arkansas Municipal League staff, working in conjunction with the office of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, has prepared a sample ordinance encouraging the wearing of masks. Many cities have been interested in the possibility of considering an ordinance, but are concerned about certain aspects of requiring a mask in all cases. The Governor’s office did not wish to criminalize the behavior of not wearing a mask, but wished to support businesses that wanted to have their patrons wear masks.

This proposed ordinance was prepared by the Arkansas Municipal League and released on July 3.

Cook read the ordinance in full for everyone present in the Zoom meeting. Click HERE to read the ordinance. 

Director Kiffinea Talley asked if any other Cities have adopted this ordinance or one similar and Cook shared that Conway, Russellville and some other Arkansas Cities have recently adopted similar ordinances in attempts to lower the spread risk of COVID-19. “Nashville Arkansas is also considering adopting a similar ordinance at their next meeting,” Mayor, Steve Montgomery shared. 

Don Still re-assured everyone present that the City of Hope is not forcing the idea that it is required to wear a mask everywhere in Hope, but that if a business asks you to wear a mask in their facility, you must do so to enter that establishment. Mayor Montgomery seconded Still’s statement and added that the ordinance had been inaccurately portrayed to the public as a “mandate” before the board meeting, when all it was saying was, a business can legally require you to wear a mask in their store by law of this ordinance and can refuse service to anyone who fails to comply to that establishment’s mask policy. 

It was asked “What is this ordinance going to change based on the fact that what the ordinance is proposing, is mostly already taking place in Hope? If a business does not allow you to enter their establishment without wearing a mask, they have the right to do so.” Mayor Montgomery stated that he agrees, this is already taking place but the ultimate purpose of this ordinance is to show that the City of Hope stands behind this idea and will legally support businesses who have a mask policy.

The board then opened up the ordinance for citizen’s comments.

An individual shared that they agree with the idea of this ordinance, but the current public issue is in Section 1 where it states “the City of Hope requires the usage of facial coverings according to ADH guidance.” He said that even though it may not be how the board is ultimately enforcing this ordinance, he thinks it should be a requirement to better safeguard the health and wellness of our community. He stated “wearing a mask is doing no harm to anyone in our city, it is only helping reduce the risk of something that eventually will harm our citizens. It is an obligation of our City Board to make the safety of our community the number one priority, so adopting a mask ordinance will not have anything but positive effects on our circumstances.” 

Chris Howard was present in the meeting to share his views. He shared that he believes the ordinance is an “over reach” saying that businesses can already take legal action against customers not complying to their policy on masks without this ordinance. 

Mark Silvey, a resident of Bodcaw, but employed within the City of Hope, recommended that the board should not adopt this ordinance and make it city law because it starts to take away freedom rights by becoming official law later causing a lot of conflict and tension. 

Kim Smith, from the Hempstead County Courthouse, joined the call to share her comment, “I know this is a controversial subject, but we as people need to have a little more consideration for everyone around us because it would go a long way. In the Courthouse, we don’t require masks to be worn, but we encourage them to. If everyone just took into consideration that they are bettering the circumstances for everyone by wearing masks it wouldn’t be a problem.” 

Other citizens shared similar views on both sides of the matter and the board took these comments into consideration for the ordinance. 

Director Linda Clark made the motion to adopt the ordinance with the change of the word “requires” to “encourages” in section 1. Director Ross seconded the motion and it was approved was by the board. Director Ross made a motion to suspend the rules and Director Clark seconded the motion so that there is no second reading of the ordinance. 

UPDATE ON CITY PROJECTS
Catherine Cook shared that several city projects are still ongoing, but the large amount of rain recently is serving as a problem to some projects.  

Mayor Steve Montgomery adjourned the meeting and they will reconvene at the next meeting on July 21, via Zoom. 

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