Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

TOP STORY >> Council in Cabot is feisty as ever


Stubby Stumbaugh is running for Congress, which means he has only 15 months left as Cabot’s mayor. But on Monday night, his first city council meeting since the announcement Saturday, it was clear that nothing else has changed.
The mayor’s volatile relationship with the city council was just as evident as before. But the council did show its collective humanity by working with the mayor to end the meeting by 9:30 p.m.

The mayor’s sister is in intensive care in a Little Rock hospital, and he wanted to be there for the evening visiting period. The council held discussion on several ordinances, opting to read them only once and continue them at the next meeting instead of rushing them through in one meeting.

The council voted down at least two ordinances that the mayor supported, and the mayor ridiculed their decisions, saying they were stopping progress in the city. When Alderman Odis Waymack, who is, in practice if not spirit, the mayor’s greatest nemesis, misspoke, calling an ordinance by the wrong number,the mayor poked fun at his mistake.
Waymack, who is legally blind, said later that from now on he will request his copy of the agenda be printed with a larger type and in bold.

The council would not pass an ordinance to increase sewer rates to go into effect if voters don’t extend the existing sales tax in September to pay for a $16.5 million sewer plant.
Six votes were needed to pass the rate increase Monday and begin the 30-day referendum period when voters could challenge the increase with an election.

Stumbaugh said and J.M. Park, chairman of the Water and Wastewater Commission agreed, that the rate increase should be in place if the tax fails so work could begin immediately on the plant.
“They do not listen to the commission’s wishes,” Stumbaugh told the commission when the rate increase did not move forward.

If the tax doesn’t pass, the council could still raise the rates next month.
The council voted down a bid to spray weeds in the city after Alderman Odis Waymack questioned paying $5,000 more for the service than he believed was necessary. Waymack told the council that state law required that those who apply the herbicides have only one type of license.

Jim Towe, the head of pubic works, called on the carpet by Waymack, said he believed there were seven different kinds of licenses for applying herbicides. When he advertised for bids to do the work, he specified that two types of licenses were required.

Two companies turned in bids, but the only one that met the bid specs of two licenses was G. C. Brown and Associates, Inc., which bid $15,280. Mike Moss, Profes-sional Weed Control and Stan White, Affordable Custom Weed Control, bid $9,500.

Stumbaugh said that whoever voted against accepting the bids and getting the spraying started would also need to provide his phone number so the irate citizens who call him about the weeds in ditches and drainage basins could call them instead.

Alderman James Glenn provided the only “yes” vote for awarding the contract to G.C. Brown and Associates, Inc.
In addition to the $5,000 difference in the bid, some council members said it seemed an unnecessary and costly expense to spray weeds so late in the summer. The council approved an ordinance over the mayor’s objection and threat of veto that would require the city to get at least three documented phone bids on purchases from $1,000 to $4,999.99 and written quotes from reputable suppliers for expenditures from $5,000 to $9,999.99.
Expenditures of $10,000 and more would have to be bid. If only one bid is received, the purchase would have to be bid again in a newspaper with statewide circulation. Purchases of less than $1,000 would still be at the mayor’s discretion.

Waymack sponsored the ordinance. He gave as an example of the need of its passage, the fact that the city deals only with one paving company for re-pairing potholes and cuts in the streets to lay water and sewer lines. Stumbaugh protested that there is no way to predict when the service will be needed and no other company will come when called.

Dale Walker, the city’s finance director, said that in his office they already get quotes on everything, even down to pencils, just as Towe gets quotes for most of the materials he needs to run the rest of the city.
The animal shelter was another source of contention.
Alderman David Polantz sponsored a resolution to bid the animal shelter as soon as possible. The mayor objected to the resolution, saying the work is progressing as fast as possible and he resented the implication that he was somehow responsible for any holdup.

He pointed out that plans for the shelter were only recently completed.
The resolution passed, but the mayor said with or without it, work would still start on the animal shelter. If voters say Sept. 13 that they want $200,000 in tax money to be used for the shelter a $450,000 shelter will be built.

If voters turn down paying for it with the tax, it will be downsized so $260,000 already collected to build it will pay for it.
In other business, the council supported unanimously a resolution by Polantz to give $500 a month to Safe Haven, Inc., the nonprofit agency that intends to open a shelter for battered women by January.

The donation is contingent on City Attorney Ken Williams finding a way to do it legally.
The council also approved an ordinance transferring $12,000 from the general fund to the city attorney’s legal defense fund to settle a lawsuit with the veterans group that sold the city the land for the park across from the high school where the community center is to be built.

The group is suing because its contract with the city called for the construction and maintenance of a permanent restroom on the part of the property retained by the group for a veteran’s memorial.

Since the council wants to settle the suit by building the restroom, the money will presumably be used for that purpose.
The council did not pass an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Jerry Stephens that would have significantly increased the cost of connecting to city sewers. Stephens said he sponsored the ordinance because it is time part of the cost of development is paid by builders, who are responsible for Cabot’s growth.

An ordinance sponsored by Alderman Polantz that was introduced at the meeting but not passed would prohibit the city from paying for ads for elected officials.

Polantz had the ordinance drafted after the mayor’s office paid almost $2,300 out of the general fund for an ad in Arkansas Business congratulating Stum-baugh for being named to that publication’s “40 under 40” list of young Arkansans who are successful in their fields.