CAPC liberated from limbo with ES Council vote
EUREKA SPRINGS -- The City Advertising and Promotion Commission was liberated from limbo during Monday night's city council meeting with the CAPC tax on gift shops eliminated and the tax on lodging and restaurants going up to three percent to help make up the difference.
The action was fast-paced after weeks of delay with the council suspending the rules to read the ordinance twice and invoking an emergency clause so that the ordinance will take effect immediately.
The council only had a week left to take action before a state law would have eliminated the CAPC.
The CAPC will have four members representing restaurants and lodging, one at-large member, and two elected members. The elected officials will be the mayor and one alderman or two aldermen.
Former Lovely County Citizen publisher Bill King had suggested the solution for the CAPC at the July 9 council meeting, and offered an amended version of the ordinance which removed some problem areas, including a provision which would have allowed a commissioner from outside the city limits.
A 15-page ordinance vetoed by Mayor Dani Wilson which would grant an exclusive limousine franchise to David "Fuzzy" White, with the veto being overturned by the council, was adjusted to address some of the mayor's concerns and passed 4-2 with council members Patrick Brammer and Joyce Zeller voting against it.
Council member Ray Hahn stated that, as an example of the mayor's reasons for the veto, the city cannot require inspection of taxis and limousines as the state does not have vehicle inspection centers anymore, and that hours of operation need to be based on necessity.
"We can go back and tweak it," she said. "It's just something that would have to be worked on." Hahn also said a committee to continue discussion of transportation issues should be pursued.
A resolution was read in support of a plan which may bring a new hospital to Eureka Springs. (See related story.) In the past, the city has considered the possibility of moving city operations to the hospital facility if it ever becomes vacant.
Mayor Wilson began the meeting with a report from an independent auditor, concerning the shortfall in funds to pay for the new sewer plant. She said the audit showed that the city only had $1.4 million left from bond issues at the end of 2005.
When the council awarded the contract for the plant in May 2006, they were told by then-mayor Kathy Harrison that the city had $2.8 million in bonds, $300,000 in certificates of deposit, and $607,000 in a construction account.
Wilson said the money was not stolen or missing, but was spent for other water and sewer projects. She also cautioned that if another bond election on Aug. 14 fails, residents would face a 33 percent rise in sewer rates.
A representative of the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development Department asked the council to approve a resolution to allow him to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to improve the water supply in the area between Spring and Prospect streets.
The grant would provide state funds to pay for the upgrades, based on the Crescent Hotel hiring at least 25 new employees for the Crescent Park project. Previously such grants for infrastructure have only been issued by the state to reward manufacturing companies for adding jobs, and if this grant succeeds, it would be the first to reward new jobs in the service industry.
Deadline for submitting an application is the end of August, but the council postponed a decision until it can see a plan showing the location of water lines.
Hahn said she was "not excited" about using the grant to reward the Crescent Hotel for adding those jobs, because they would have to hire the extra employees anyway.
Zeller countered, "It seems to me this council is again postponing something because they don't want to make up their minds."
In other business:
* The council again postponed a decision on adopting a new code book was postponed until a Municipal League representative can attend a meeting.
* Discussion of Ordinance 2059 increasing parking lot rental fees was postponed.
* Discussion of an ordinance adopting a policy and procedures manual for city employees was postponed.