Hope City Board votes to use ARPA funds for police and fire pay, rezones Hervey lot

Cindy Clark, Hope’s financial advisor, speaks to the Hope City board about designating ARPA funds to pay for police and fire fighters’ pay and benefits.

The second April meeting of the Hope City Board of Directors saw a unanimous vote to use the remaining $433,734 in federal funds acquired courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for police and firefighter salaries and employer payroll contributions.

In the same resolution, the board also authorized the use of $61,400 classified for “the public health project” to replace city revenue lost during the pandemic.

Two other procedural votes, to suspend the rules and adopt an emergency clause also passed unanimously so that the resolution could go into effect immediately.

ARPA allows cities to reroute money they receive. More specifically, in an agenda information provided to the media, the office of City Manager Catherine Cook said, “The final rules allow cities to claim $10 million or the actual amount of ARPA funds received for governmental services under revenue replacement.” The document further says the office’s staff “attended numerous trainings with the Arkansas Municipal League on this topic.”

The Arkansas Municipal League is a nonprofit organization whose purpose in part is to “to provide a clearinghouse for information and answers” for city officials and staff across the state.

The rationale for the change in the use of ARPA funds, according to the agenda information document, is that “this will free money in the general fund for other governmental services and aid in ease of reporting.”

The city’s financial advisor, Cindy Clark presented the proposal.

In total, Hope received $994,370.29 in ARPA funds for this fiscal year. During the discussion, Cook said that more funds would be coming to the city because of ARPA next year.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to rezone a lot on 222 North Hervey from C-4 Office Commercial and R-2 Medium Density Residential to C-2 Highway Commercial. Owned by Robert Barwick, the lot will be used to provide 55 storage units.

As Cook reported, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously supported the rezoning. As part of the process, all those owning lots within 400 feet were sent registered letters notifying them of Barwick’s application to rezone. During Monday’s meeting, some business owners showed up, but none had objections.

During discussion director Mark Ross asked whether the owners of the Sherwin Williams store had expressed any concerns. Cook said they had not and that Barwick had been allowing Sherwin Williams staff and customers to park on his lot.

The board also approved a grant to the Hope Police Department of $28,043.30 from federal funds and $13,265.92 in a local in-kind match under the Highway Traffic and Safety Administration/Arkansas Highway Safety Office Step Grant Program. The results of the grant for the previous year, though “reduced activity” was noted “due to pandemic period” were 270.5 hours worked by the HPD, “resulting in 567 vehicle stops, 132 citations, 339 warnings, two DWI arrests, two fugitive apprehensions, 28 suspended license infractions and two drug arrests.”

Money from the grant is also used to buy safe car seats for children.

After the passage of the rezoning resolution, the city manager made her report. Cook told the board Saturday April 23rd at 7 a.m. would see the start of Hope’s citywide Cleanup Day. Volunteers were urged to come to the Hub at that hour to take part.

Cook also said, “It is not a not a day that we pick up your regular household trash. It’s for large debris . . . and sticks.”

Mayor Don Still added that Sanitation Superintendent Nathaniel Holyfield told him city workers cannot pick up coolant-using appliances, refrigerators and air conditioning units, which don’t have a sticker from a professional certifying the coolant has been drained.

In Citizens Request time, Director Mark Ross praised Summer Powell, Hope Parks Superintendent and her staff for preparing the baseball fields for use. Mayor Still joined, mentioning he had been to the dedication of Jack Williams Field. Cook said signage reflecting the new name would be arriving soon.

In addition, a citizen raised the need for the city to close the gates of Northside Park. The gun violence that took place there recently, the citizen said, had occurred after 11 p.m. when the gates were supposed to be closed.

HPD police chief J.R. Wilson said his department had made a change to what patrol officers were required to do while on duty to make sure the gate would be closed. “They have to now document that they close it through the logging schedule. We use an electronic logging schedule.

“If we’re on call,” Wilson said, “they’ll get to close that gate as close to 11 as possible. So after that if you see it open, please don’t give us a call that it has not closed yet, because it may be that they’re on a call.”

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