Council votes to add no new restrictions on 'open mike' policy

Thursday, September 14, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Alderman Penny Carroll's proposal to apply Robert's Rules of Order to the Eureka Springs City Council's "open mic" policy failed on a vote of 1-5, but public comments did stay within the bounds of civilit at Monday night's regular council meeting.

Noting that she is always hearing about the rancor at city council meetings, Carroll said her proposal was to help maintain a respectful attitude to ward the council and mayor.

City Attorney Tim Weaver said thatwhile he understood Carroll's idea, he questioned the constitutionality of restricting public comment.

Alderman Beverly Blankenship stated that the open mic policy was initiated by the council as a courtesy. Abrasive or hostile statements and personal attcks say more about the speaker than it does about the council, she added.

While Carroll's effort failed, the open mic participants appeared civil.

Former Mayor Beau Satori's statements regarding city subsidy to the City Advertising and Promotion Commissin sounded strident, but his actual language was well couched, with the possible exception of what might have been sarcasm as he said goodbye to Carroll specifically.

Other open mic participants included:

* Charlotte Buchanan, who encouraged utilizing thetalents of residents while objecting to spending $45,000 on Christmas lights (See related story on Page 3);

* Karen Lindblad, who expressed outrage that the city building official has no vehicle; and

* Mark Jipp, who predicted the demise of the city's wdding industry and called for adapting ideas utilized in the 1950s before there was a Great Passion Play.

Only two items on the agenda were finalized during Monday night's meeting, those being the final reading of an ordinance setting 2007 real and personl property tax levies; and the approval of Kenneth Pownall for Position 6 on the planning commission, with his term expiring in 2009.

Eric Scheunemann is being considered for another seat on the planning commission, which would expire in 2007.

In discusson of a request for maintenance of bathrooms at the Art Village on North Main Street, no action was taken. That was supported by Weaver's concern about entering into a contractual relationship with private business when other businesses exist which offer imilar services.

It was decided to conduct a public hearing concerning Robert Wagner's application for a certificate of public convenience to operate a taxi service.

Discussion regarding construction financing for a fire truck and ambulance building on Va Buren, prompted by unexpected geologic problems, was deferred pending outcome of a meeting of the board of Bank of Eureka Springs regarding a change order.

It was reported that excavation for the new waste water treatment plant is underway, and that wate in the construction area is due to digging below creek level. Progress has been slow due to hitting solid rock, and one more foot of depth is needed to put in footings. The hole that is visible fro Ark. Hwy 23 is where two concrete tanks are going to be laced.

It was also reported that the Public Works Department will be smoke-testing sewer lines this fall.

The Transit Department reported that over the four-day Labor Day weekend, 6,556 rides were provided, creating a 21.6 percent increase over the same priod in 2005. Year-to-date ridership reflects a 3.5 percent increase.

As for the Planer Hill Park and Ride project, architects are preparing an addendum to exclude the proposed building from the project. Utilities, however, will be stubbed to the buildingsite so that they are in place when funding for the building becomes available. Transit plans to re-publish its request for bids before the end of the month.

There was some discussion regarding an ordinance to waive the bid for expenditures by the CAPC fo Christmas light rental. Council appeared concerned about paying for a master electrician to wire private business. While legality of such a practice is questionable and will be investigated, state law does not allow a city to enter into a rental program,though lease arrangements are permitted.

Council also received copies of a petition from Marsha Havens, signed by 98 people opposed to the firing of sonic cannons to drive away turkey vultures which nest in the hollow between Linwood and Ridgeway streets.

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