ES council encouraged to go green

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- "Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, we should start repositioning ourselves to be prepared," Jerry Landrum told city council at its Feb. 27 meeting. Landrum is a retired physical scientist with the Naval Research Laboratory. He was referring to the emissions' reduction plan submitted by Nick Brown, an environmental and sustainability consultant who conducted an energy use and emissions' audit of the Eureka Springs area last year.

Landrum had worked with Brown on the audit, and he told council that resources are disappearing and the world is going after "our dirtiest energy sources" such as the shale gas deposits in Alberta. He observed that Eureka Springs, like all communities, needs to get on board with protecting and conserving our resources.

Landrum said Brown's plan focuses on long-range energy-saving and emission-reducing strategies which also would save the city significant money over time. He pointed out that council must focus not only on local improvements but advocate for state legislative upgrades which would acknowledge the new energy realities.

Alderman Parker Raphael commented that it would be helpful to council if Landrum could provide a specific To Do list.

Landrum referred to Brown's plan for several examples, citing building code upgrades which would encourage energy efficiency. He said the city should focus on encouraging renewable energy sources wherever possible, such as using motel roofs facing south for photovoltaic collectors and alternative fuels for transit vehicles.

There is also the idea of changing how the city charges for water and electricity so it encourages and rewards less consumption. The city could switch to a biomass system for heating just one school at first and then others in due time, Landrum said.

Alderman Ken Pownall brought up two points regarding the city attorney. He said his discussion was about the position, not the individual, and pointed out that city code stipulates the city attorney is not a city employee. He enumerated hourly amounts the city will pay for the various services of the attorney, whether it be research and consulting time, time in meetings or time in court.

Pownall said that in 2001, the city paid a flat fee for services of the attorney, and he was looking for clarification because of his concerns with the city budget.

Pownall also said he noticed that city code seems to restrict direct access to the city attorney to the mayor, department heads and persons filing complaints.

City attorney Tim Weaver replied that his reading of the state law is that elected officials, therefore aldermen, can contact the attorney, but Pownall answered that city code reads differently.

Weaver said that council could change city code if it felt it was necessary, but the intent of the language was not to prevent access and he felt the language as it stood allowed access.

Alderman James DeVito said that he did not like the idea of unfettered access to the city attorney. "If that's the case, the city should have a timesheet to see which aldermen are spending city money."

Alderman Lany Ballance responded that, for the sake of clarity, council should amend the code. She asserted that they should be able to trust each other not to run up the bill, and it would be appropriate that council should have access to the attorney.

Council voted 4-1, DeVito voting No, to amend city code to list aldermen as having direct access to the city attorney. Mayor Morris Pate added that he would do more research about Pownall's budget concern.

Dog control now law

Council unanimously approved the third reading of the proposed dog control ordinance, thereby enacting it into law. They also passed the proposed handicapped parking regulations ordinance 4-0-1, Ballance abstaining, after clarifying the language in one section.

City Clerk/Treasurer Ann Armstrong said that Ray Dotson had not responded to her letter requesting a list of pick-up and dropoff locations for his carriage business as required in the franchise agreement. Weaver said Dotson was not in violation of the franchise agreement yet since he had not actually begun to operate.

Ballance commented regarding the proposed license fee for apartment buildings that the City of Berryville does not have such a fee. She said that in Fayetteville, an owner is allowed up to three rentals before a fee like this is imposed, and feels that this fee, if implemented, would precipitate an increase in rent. There is a dearth of affordable housing as it is, she said, and this license fee would only exacerbate the situation.

In the public comments forum, Enid Swartz commented that the city needs an ordinance regulating the demolition of neglected buildings. She said she has watched certain buildings for years that are in horrible condition, falling apart, that sometimes are used by squatters. She wants the city to take action to remove "eyesores and potential hazards from neighborhoods."

Beverly Blankenship, chairwoman of the Planning Commission, reminded council there are three vacancies on that commission, presenting a challenge to have a quorum. She thanked council for funds for a zoning map.

Next meeting will be Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m.

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