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Public meetings, big events happening this week

By Rick Kennedy, Monday update
As Christmas, school recess, and holiday travels are approaching, a number of public meetings and prominent events are happening in southwestern Arkansas this week, starting tonight, Monday, and continuing right on to Saturday, December 15. A number of meetings and events had also been moved from their original or regular dates as well. A synopsis and reminder of these happenings coming up follows:

ARKADELPHIA:  Tonight at 5 p.m.

In Arkadelphia tonight, the 2018 Christmas Parade happens at 5:00 p.m. and afterwards in front of Slim & Shorty’s, both the Arkadelphia High School band and football team will be honored; the high school band for their third straight championship in a row and also the football team for their 2nd consecutive 4A state championship.

PARADE MONDAY: Tonight at 6 p.m.
In Prescott, the 2018 edition of the Prescott Christmas parade will commence tonight, Monday, starting at 6 p.m. after being moved due to rain last week. The theme of the parade will be “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” and Parade’s route has been slightly changed for 2018.
Angel Barlow, administrative assistant for Chamber Director Jamie Hillery, said, “The parade starts at the Senior Citizen’s Center (419 E Main Street) and will go down Main Street, turning left between the two banks (Bank of Delight and Bank of Prescott). It will go in front of the Nevada County Courthouse (215 E 2nd Street) and then go left on E Vine, and end at Prescott Flowers & Gifts (228 E Vine).”
Barlow also said that following the parade there will be Christmas caroling and other activities at the traditional Christmas on the Square on the Courthouse steps. Santa will be making his annual appearance in the Christmas Parade and will be at the Christmas on the Square afterwards tonight.

HOPE CITY BUDGET: Tonight at 7 p.m.
The Hope City Board of Directors moved its first scheduled meeting in December, originally Tuesday, December 4, due to the performance of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The board is meeting tonight, Monday, at Hope City Hall at 7 p.m.
Among the business items set for tonight’s meeting will be a discussion of the upcoming 2019 City of Hope budget, which is expected to extend the session longer than usual. Last year, the City of Hope board met almost three hours in reviewing the then-2018 budget. The City of Hope had listed budgeted revenue of $10.7 million for 2018, which reflected a then-8.9 percent increase over 2017. But its General Fund budgeted expenses, which showed $9.7 million budgeted for 2017, also jumped to $10.7 million budgeted for 2018.
The 2018 budget approved by the Hope City Board in December 2017 also included $1,000 across the board raises for all city employees, which was neither challenged at the Dec. 5 or Dec. 19 meetings of that year. The budget also was approved by a curious 4-0-0 vote last year with Mark Ross, Don Hall and Reggie Easter, all not present.

The Hope City Board will also have their regularly scheduled meeting next week on Tuesday, December 18, the week before Christmas, giving the Hope City Board back-to-back week meetings.

HEMPSTEAD COUNTY BUDGET: Dec. 11
Also having an irregular schedule with a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 11, is the Hempstead County Quorum Court, which will hold a special budget session at 5 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 5:30 p.m., in which it has four 2019 budget ordinances set for approval that compose the county’s 2019 operating budget.
During a special Finance committee meeting on November 11, it was initially announced that Hempstead County was facing “a $3.4 million budget against $3.3 million in revenues,” but by the end of that session — and a series of cuts, mainly to the County Jail — Committee Chairman Ed Darling said he was satisfied that the County had a “workable budget that we can function with over the next year” that met the requirements of being balanced to within 90-percent of revenues. This working committee budget is presumed to be the same one the entire Quorum Court will be voting on Tuesday night.
In addition to the 2019 budget, the much-talked about $500 County employee Christmas bonuses will be revisited as well as the first agenda item of the night Tuesday. In November, the bonuses failed to obtain the “supermajority vote” to pass with Darling, Doris Moore voting no, and Lynn Montgomery voting present.
With Hempstead County employing approximately 135 full-persons, an updated number confirmed during November’s Finance meeting, the annual “Christmas bonuses,” if approved by the Justices will cost local taxpayers approximately $67,500.

HOPE SCHOOLS CONCERT: Dec. 11
As detailed previously on SWARK Today,the Hope Public Schools in seven different performance groups will present a variety of holiday-themed music at the annual HPS Bands Winter Concert in the main auditorium at Hempstead Hall at 6:30 p.m., according to Hope Bands Director Julie Gladden.
“We will have seven groups performing, including the Beryl Henry Elementary School Woodwinds, Beryl Henry Elementary School Brass, Hope Academy of Public Service Beginning Band, Combined Middle School Intermediate Band, Combined Middle School Advanced Band, Hope High School Jazz Band, and the Hope High School Concert Band,” Gladden said. “The winter concert will feature many popular holiday songs and winter-themed songs.”

COURTHOUSE COFFEE: Dec. 12
The Hempstead County Courthouse will also host the Chamber of Commerce Community Coffee for the week at the old Courthouse on South Washington. Per tradition, this Christmas-themed Coffee will highlight seasonal decorations in the courthouse as well as a turnout of local county, city, and state elected officials.

BICENTENNIAL SATURDAY: Dec. 15
Also as detailed previously on SWARK Today, the main Hempstead County Bicentennial Celebration is scheduled for this Saturday, December 15, which is the birth date of the founding of the county on December 15, 1818, and culminates a year of committee meetings, activities, bus tours, and even, the building of a “Time Capsule.”
Beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Hempstead Hall will host a special panel of Hempstead County speakers including Mack McLarty, who served as Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton; Judge Lavenski R. Smith, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit; Little Rock attorney Joe Purvis; and Ellen Turner, a professor at Northwest Arkansas Community College.
Following the speeches at Hempstead Hall, the Bicentennial celebration shifts to downtown Hope at the Farmers Bank building, which will become the future courthouse of Hempstead County. Beginning at 1 p.m., a Bicentennial parade will start at current Hempstead County courthouse on South Washington and march to downtown Hope.
Following the parade, the rest of Saturday afternoon will feature music, vendors, and games in downtown Hope from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and there will be an official cake cutting as well as fireworks at 6 p.m. after dark.

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