There were some light-hearted moments in the regular Eureka Springs City Council meeting Monday evening and they overshadowed the few tense moments of discussion about where City Administrative Assistant Kim Dickens is to work when she returns to city hall.
Dickens was fired by Mayor Kathy Harrison Thursday, Aug. 28. The council met in special session last Thursday evening and voted 4 -- 2 to rescind the mayor's decision. (See related story on Page 1.)
Dickens took a seat at the council table Monday evening just as the meeting was getting underway at 6 p.m. She only made one comment about a legal matter and read ordinances aloud.
She has not returned telephone calls or messages from either local newspaper since her firing, although she did speak to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that day.
Alderman Penny Carroll insisted that an agenda item be added to discuss where in city hall Dickens is to work.
Carroll was in city hall Friday afternoon, amidst the moving of the mayor's office into Dickens' old small office and the setting up of work areas for new building inspector, Deborah James, and Economic Development Coordinator Glenna Booth in the large mayor's office.
Part-time City Planner Richard Harper's work area is also in the large office.
Harrison set up a work table, telephone, files and code books in the space between the two offices, where city employees have worked for at least the last 15 or so years.
Mayor Harrison and Aldermen Karen Lindblad and Bill Ott didn't want to talk about office space and furniture during the council meeting. None of them thought the council should be involved in the matter.
Carroll, Earl "Bud" Umland, Robert "Butch" Berry and Gayle Money thought the council should talk about it and make the decision.
Carroll insisted that since state statutes do not address the matter of work space and furniture, that the council has the authority to make those assignments.
A compromise was finally reached to not talk about furniture and office space during the meeting, but to go ahead and discuss Dickens' job description during a budget workshop set for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15.
Writ of mandamus
Berryville attorney Kent Crow has presented copies to the council of his opinion of a proposed writ of mandamus containing 13 allegations regarding the city's failure to follow the Building Code, the Fire Code, deal with fire safety issues, improper issuance of Certificate of Occupancy and other permits, failure to provide the city building inspector with a staff, secretarial support or budget, and failure to establish a Board of Appeals as required by the International Building Code.
In the cover letter, dated Aug. 29, to Debbie Frisbie, chairman of the Historic District Commission (HDC), Crow writes that he has been "directed by my client, who wishes to remain anonymous, to provide you with a copy of the opinion letter I prepared at his request."
According to City Attorney Tim Weaver, a complaint would have to be written from the information in the writ and filed with the District Court. That has not been done and no court date is set for a hearing on the information.
Carroll moved to have Dickens send the information to the Municipal League for an opinion.
Lindblad objected, saying she did not think it was appropriate for Dickens to handle the matter since she is mentioned by name within the document.
Dickens said, "This is a great concern to me and I would like to get the best representation possible."
The discussion of an ordinance to waive competitive bidding for the lights at Lake Leatherwood Ball Fields was delayed to the end of the meeting, waiting on the arrival of Parks Director Bruce Levine, returning from a trip to Chicago.
Levine had told the council Aug. 25 bids on the project had been taken on the lighting project but had come in at $250,000. He had rejected the bids and got permission from the Parks and Recreation Commission to negotiate with various vendors for component items.
Last week, a stack of 10 70-foot long wooden poles were delivered to the fields. Levine said he had ordered the poles several weeks ago, with agreement from Commission Chairman Bill Featherstone.
When Levine did arrive and the discussion of the bids started, Lindblad attempted to ask questions about the lighting project.
Levine was obviously so tired, he was almost unable to respond.
The council did approve the second reading of the ordinance.
Levine was asked to bring the information Lindblad was asking for to the Sept. 22 meeting.
City attorney ordinance
The ordinance to return the city attorney's post to full-time and make him a counselor for the council and city commissions was defeated on its first reading.
Aldermen Ott and Lindblad have been working to restore the position since they took office in January.
There have been several work sessions and committee meetings to create the ordinance.
Berry, Carroll, Money and Umland have opposed the idea, saying it would cost the city twice as much as hiring an outside attorney for opinions as well as getting opinions from the city attorney.
Attorneys from the Municipal League, a professional organization for Arkansas cities with attorneys who practice municipal law, have repeatedly told council members to "bring your city attorney to the table" because that organization is not able to function as a city attorney.
HDC ordinance changes
A joint workshop with members of the HDC, the council and North Little Rock City Attorney Paul Suskie has been requested to discuss the proposed changes to the HDC's enforcement provisions of the Municipal Code.
The provisions deal with "demolition by neglect" and mandate owners to maintain historic properties in good condition.
Suskie wrote the list more than 10 years ago for North Little Rock. It has also been adopted by Morrilton and Osceola and is being considered by the Conway City Council.
The provisions have been upheld in several court appeals, according to Suskie.
Proposed Ordinance 1830, regarding landscaping, and a draft to amend the Municipal Code regarding sidewalk surfaces, will be be reviewed by the council.
Both had been developed by the Planning Commission several months ago, but never brought to the council for action.