At issue, again, was the fact several aldermen said they'd received numerous complaints from their constituents concerning the extended length of the deer hunt -- it was originally scheduled for Sept. 15-Oct. 7, then from Nov. 10 to Feb. 28.
Another major complaint by aldermen and citizenry alike has been the difficulty of determining exactly where on which private property the hunt would be allowed, as well as concerns of wounded deer straying from allowed areas or dogs or people being wounded by arrows.
Assurances from Arkansas Game & Fish, who have appeared before the council more than once to explain urban hunts and their value, came to no avail in the end.
Alderman Karen Lindblad related requests from her constituents that the deer hunt as it was now arranged be put back on the ballot in November so that the voters could see precisely what they are voting for. "A lot of people are upset because what we're getting is far afield from what they thought they were getting," she said. "People either want it stopped or want to vote again on it as it has evolved."
The suggestion that the previous election be ignored and a new ordinance (or ordinances) put in place to allow voters to re-examine the issue in November was squelched when Alderman Parker Raphael pointed out the deadline for filing such things was less than 24 hours away.
City Attorney Tim Weaver opined that the complexities of the issue and the time limit would make completing the whole process difficult if not impossible.
At this point Alderman Butch Berry interjected. "Miss Lindblad has been against this deer hunt all along," he said. "Even if we were able to get something back on the ballot, I wonder if she wouldn't come back to have that repealed as well, until she gets her way. The citizens have already voted once. This is just another method of trying to get around the deer hunt."
At an earlier meeting, Ballance made a motion to accept the recommendations of the Deer Hunt Committee, seconded by Lindblad. Alderman James DeVito was absent, leaving five council members to vote on the motion. Having made the motion, Ballance and Lindblad then voted against it. Joined by Alderman Ken Pownall, the motion lacked sufficient votes to pass, and so the deer hunt is gone.
In other business, council voted to extend the December free-parking downtown Christmas event to include all city metered parking, not just the on-street metered parking on Main and Spring Streets. Parking will be free for two hour periods each day during that month to promote Christmas business.
The council also voted to spend $500-$1000 to hire a company called MCC Airworks to do a thorough evaluation of the heating and cooling systems in THE Auditorium. Both heat coil units have failed and must either be repaired at a cost of $12,000 or replaced for in the neighborhood of a $125,000. Concern was raised that other things might need fixing, and that it would be short sighted to spend money to repair those units, only to have something else break down the next day.
Ballance and Lindblad brought to the table a discussion of asking the Planning commission to research structures encroaching on public property.
"I would like a list of all of them," Ballance said. "It would also be helpful to know what encroachments will be happening in the future. Because they will happen, and people will come forward and the city will just give the property to them. It would be a very good idea to know how much public property is already being encroached upon."
Berry pointed out it would be a virtually impossible task without someone doing research on literally every property in town. "And actually a title search, however thorough, might not even work," he said. "You might have to do a survey of each individual property."
Ballance said she felt Planning was very capable of doing the research.
Shrugging, Berry replied, "I have an awful lot of confidence in Planning myself, but they can't do an awful lot on a project like that with insufficient funding. If they had the resources, which they don't."
Arguing for Planning's being able to accomplish the project "on a shoestring," Ballance contended the city had set a precedent in freely giving away encroached city property. "When that happens, their property values go up," she said. "I know of at least three pieces of public property right now that are being encroached on. One has approached me asking if they thought that property could be vacated to them ."
Attorney Weaver addressed the viewing public at that point. "Please don't take the alderman's comments to heart and start building on public property. If you encroach on public property, you may very well end up in front of a tribunal or a judge. There are laws in place for this."