Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

TOP STORY >>Williams eager to take reins in Cabot, get city moving forward again

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Eddie Joe Williams, the mayor-elect in Cabot, isn’t talking about major changes early in his administration, but he does have a game plan for January.From an office in the old Community Bank building on Second Street the city is buying, Williams said Tuesday morning that he has two goals for January — a workshop for the new council and a “traffic summit.”

Four of the eight council members who will be sworn in next year are new to city government, so Williams said he has tentatively scheduled a workshop for them on Jan. 6 at the new community center. He hopes to have speakers from Congressman Marion Berry’s office and the Municipal League. Getting across Cabot during rush hour is one of the biggest problems in the city, so Williams said that will be one of the first problems he tackles. He is currently trying to set up a meeting with representatives from the Arkansas Highway Department, Lonoke County, and Berry’s office.

Not one to spend money if he doesn’t have to, Williams has chosen to thank voters personally instead of in a paid newspaper ad. On Tuesday morning, he stood for the second time on the street corner in front of city hall waving a “Thank You Cabot” sign. When he spoke with The Leader later, he was still obviously pleased that his message was well received.

“People roll down the windows and give me the thumbs up,” he said. With Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh’s permission, Williams has met with some of the city’s department heads. He said he isn’t planning any major changes in January. Instead, he will work through the budget process to see how the city’s financial obligations match with the money coming in before deciding if any cuts are necessary.

A major concern, he said, is the need for a fire station on Highway 5 near Greystone and Magness Creek where 150 homeowners face large increases in their insurance premiums because they live more than five miles from the nearest station.

Williams said he doesn’t think city offices will move into the old bank building this year. The city council, about two months ago, approved paying $1.1 million for the 22,000 square-foot building. The plan was to move city offices there so the police department could take over the old city hall. But Williams said he doesn’t think there will be enough money to renovate the building this year.

“I’ve been told we haven’t budgeted any money to move in and moving in is no pressing matter,” he said. Instead, he said he would try to find tenants to help pay the monthly, $3,500 payment on the building until the city needs it more and has more money to pay for the move. Council meetings in Cabot have been unpredictable in recent years. Proposed ordinances are often hotly debated and often fall short of the votes needed to pass. Williams says he wants no more of that. He wants committees made up of five members to look over and discuss every ordinance that is introduced. By the time an ordinance makes it to the full council, the debating should be over, he said, and council meetings should be orderly.

Williams said he will ask department heads to curtail their spending and start saving money for a “rainy day fund.” Williams says he sees himself as a manager. He will ask the council to help identify five objectives for the upcoming year, he said, and then he will ask his department heads to come up with ways to help him and the council members to meet those objectives.