Eureka Springs City Council approves 2014 budget

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

EUREKA SPRINGS -- The city council approved the 2014 budget at their last meeting on Monday, Jan. 27.

The general fund was estimated to need more than $3,338,000 and was appropriated closer to $3,332,000. The general fund was the largest expenditure and appropriation in the budget, followed by water and sewer, with estimated expenditures of approximately $1.24 million. Water and sewer were appropriated nearly $1,070 less than what they asked.

For the last several years, the estimated expenditures for the city budget have been getting closer to the projected revenues, said Alderman Dave Mitchell. He continued by saying that the council will soon have to get a little more conservative with spending because with little money in reserve any economic down turn has the potential to hurt the city.

The budget was passed by resolution and numbered 634.

The council also heard and approved the first reading of Ordinance 2201, or the Clean City Ordinance, which was sponsored Mitchell and Alderman Mickey Schneider.

This ordinance replaces and expands other existing ordinances that establish regulations for aesthetic upkeep for commercial and residential buildings alike. It also sets time limits for responding to notices for violations and enforcement guide lines for those who refuse to cooperate.

Some of the regulations set by the ordinance include keeping grass trimmed to below eight inches, removing garbage from yards and drainage ditches, removing unused or nonfunctioning vehicles from sight and repairing or destroying fire-damaged and abandoned buildings.

For the majority of the violations, the city can cite a resident or business owner for up to $200 for the first offense and up to $400 for every day the after the initial violation is cited and not corrected. This ordinance also allows city officials to contract private companies after a bidding process to fix the violations and charge the property owner for the cost of the repairs.

Alderman Joyce Zeller said she was not comfortable with the wording in multiple sections of the ordinance and that the city has previously tried and failed to establish ordinances like this one. Other council members were not completely satisfied with the ordinance, but approved it regardless stating that they still have two more readings and can change what they need to before the then.

"Do I think this ordinance is perfect, no," said City Attorney Tim Weaver. "But it is better than what some of the other cities around us use."

The council heard the third and final reading for Ordinance 2200, which vacates a portion of Nut Street. There will be a 30-day waiting period until the ordinance becomes city code. The council members have tasked Weaver with drafting ordinances that will reclaim portions of Hartman and McCune streets as well as Sweeney Alley from the Parks Commission to begin the vacating process.

Later in the meeting the council amended regulations for intimate theater in C-3 zones by allowing the use of animals that weigh less than 25 pounds for performances. The previous wording prohibited the use of animals, and it was changed to accommodate the small animals used by magicians at the Intrigue Theater.

The council also passed Resolution 633, which allows the Parks Commission to claim jurisdiction for a building at 531 Spring St. The building was used for a children's program, but because of mold damage it is now only used for storage, said Alderman Mickey Schneider.

"All of this property can only be used for the benefit of children," she said at a previous meeting to address the past discoveries of the building. "In view of the mold problem and age of the building I don't see that this can be cleaned and reconstructed to make it safe for children again."

She continued to say if Parks is using it, the department could "slide by" this rule because the commission's work is directly involved with the benefit of many children. The buildings upkeep, use and utility cost will now be covered by the Parks Commission.

In other news, the council gave Sandy Martin, chairperson for the art council, permission to start negations with Christopher Crane of the Arkansas Production Alliance to establish a tax incentive for the film industry in the city.

Also, there was a brief discussion of raising water and sewer rates to better cover some city expenses, but the talks were postponed so that City Finance Director Lonnie Clark could further work with Public Works Director Dwayne Allen to see how much the rate raise would have to be.

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