By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
The Tuesday night marathon meeting of the Hope City Board could have proven to be a play in three acts. The first act devoted to progress reports at the Chamber of Commerce; the second act dealing with 15 residential condemnations, and the third and most compelling act telling of apparent troubles between a Hope resident, John Odom, and the Hope Public School District.
Odom had appeared before the Hope City Board before, approximately one year ago, to discuss traffic flow in his neighborhood, which happens to be adjacent to Hope High School’s football stadium in the 18th Street neighborhood.
Although Odom said the situation had improved, he still went on to describe unnamed “security officials” that he encountered on the way home, even being stopped by one of them, calling them “rent a cops” that were unprofessional.
Odom also complained that persons were routinely ignoring “No Parking” signs and designated Fire Lanes as he observed one day at Clinton Primary School.
“When is there going to be some law and order here?” Odom asked, even going so far to call the situation “life threatening.”
“I tired of calling the police about these matters, and I am sure they are tired of hearing from me. I want to see some action,” Odom said to the board.
City Manager Catherine Cook assured Odom that no kids or school personnel’s safety would be compromised, and she said “We will protect those kids; we will protect the school.”
Odom cited places like Little Rock and Texarkana that he believed had city ordinances to deal with fire lane parking, include what he called “ticket and tow” offenses.
Both Cook and Mayor Steve Montgomery offered the idea to Odom that his issues on these matters were with the Hope School District and its board, but Odom said he and his attorney had been unsuccessful in getting a response from Superintendent Bobby Hart, and then Odom counted by saying the streets, traffic flow, and traffic ordinances were the city’s responsibilities not the school districts.
Hope Police Chief JR Wilson then explained steps that occurred when Hope Police encounter a parking compliant, and he did say that officers had discretion in dealing with those matters, most of the time issuing a request to move the vehicles or a warning.
Board member Don Still said “We should contact Arkadelphia or some other cities and see what ordinances they have on the fire lanes.”
Odom continued about another issue with the school district, claiming they had performed work adjacent to his property on Hawthorne Street, including altering a nearby ditch, and it was causing his property to flood.
Cook conceded that hard surfaces would result in water run-off as she called it, and eventually, she offered to facilitate a meeting with Odom and his people and Hope School District and Hart.
Odom asked if there could be some “Joint City Board/School Board meeting” to address the issues.
Earlier in the evening, the Hope Board also unanimously approved condemnation for 15 residential structures within Hope, including 300 Berry, 1207 Midland, 1215 Midland, 608 North Bell, 623 North Elm, 502 North Hazel, 1205 North Hazel, 706 North Laurel, 415 North Walnut (which recently burned) 417 North Walnut, 711 North Walnut, 100 North Washington, 102 North Washington, 109 North Washington, and 513 South Walnut.
Considering a high number of the structures were concentrated on single streets, and one particular geographic section of the town, no member of the board asked why that was, and no explanations were provided.
At the start of the meeting, the board heard from Hope/Hempstead County Chamber Director Beckie Moore, who provided a nine-month year-in-review type status report, which largely chronicled the chamber’s activities since its annual meeting and banquet in March.
Moore also covered a number of new ideas, like “Music, Melons at Midnight,” which is a proposed New Year’s Eve party event for downtown Hope.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor