ES council OKs resolution correcting ballot title error

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Eureka Springs City Council took care of business Monday night, ending its regular meeting in less than an hour.

The most contentious item on the agenda was a resolution to correct a scrivener’s error in the ballot title of the Lake Leatherwood City Park tax, approved by Eureka Springs voters on June 13, 2017. The resolution came about after alderwoman Kristi Kendrick pointed out March 12 that the ordinance number on the ballot is wrong, and city attorney Tim Weaver said the resolution would fix that problem.

On Monday night, alderman Terry McClung moved to read the resolution for passage. Kendrick said she wanted to discuss it first, saying the cardinal rule for tax legislation is that any ambiguity or doubt must be resolved in favor of the taxpayer. The ballot for the tax, Kendrick said, wasn’t just wrong when it comes to the ordinance number. She said it was perplexing in general.

“It does not use the word ‘tax,’ it does not use the word ‘parks’ and I think it was really confusing,” Kendrick said. “I am not personally going to assume that I understand that everybody that walked in to vote yes on this ballot was voting for the ballot tax.”

She continued, “I don’t think this whole scrivener’s error thing is going to work legally, but apart from that, I cannot in good conscience substitute my understanding of what happened for all the voters’ understanding of what they were voting for, so I’m going to vote against this resolution.”

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she has worked on elections in Eureka Springs for 20 years.

“Things often seem very confusing. They don’t seem to be quite lined up right,” Schneider said. “There has been on occasion a screw-up of numbers.”

Nevertheless, Schneider said, citizens know how they’re going to vote before they get behind the voting booth.

“I’d say 90 to 95 percent of our voters, when they come in to vote on an issue, they know exactly how and why they’re going to vote,” Schneider said. “They already know. They’ve already looked into it and they vote accordingly.”

She added, “If you accidentally print the wrong number on something, it’s not that big of a deal. We’re human. Accidents happen. It’s just a matter of cleaning up the page number, so to speak.”

The council voted on the resolution, with everyone but Kendrick voting to read it for passage. The council moved on to a resolution allowing the city to apply for an Arkansas Historic Preservation Program grant for The Auditorium, with Mayor Butch Berry saying the grant would help the city re-roof the north side of The Auditorium and clean and waterproof the upper masonry inside.

Berry said the Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission would match $28,145 of the grant, bringing the total funds to $84,434. Alderman Terry McClung, who also serves on the CAPC, said the commission voted to allocate less than $28,145 for the grant. Berry said he spoke with CAPC finance director Rick Bright, who told him the CAPC would contribute $28,145.

“I think we only approved half that amount,” McClung said. “I remember that directly but I could be wrong.”

Berry encouraged the council to approve the resolution, saying he’d get in touch with Bright again to be sure everything is correct. The council voted, unanimously agreeing to read the resolution for passage.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution allowing the city to apply for an Arkansas Historic Preservation Program grant for $12,499 to fund a long-range conservation program at the Eureka Springs Cemetery. Berry said the Eureka Springs Cemetery Commission would contribute $2,000 in matching funds, with the Eureka Springs Preservation Society donating $500 to it.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance describing the diversion of grant funds on a third and final reading and deferred an ordinance for paying down bond payments and a resolution acknowledging the benefactor behind the downhill mountain bike project at Lake Leatherwood City Park.

That project was a popular subject during public comments, kicking off with a statement from Chris Fischer. Fischer said he recently visited a somewhat familiar section of the park he hasn’t hiked in years and found many changes around Miner’s Rock. There are quite a few new trail segments, Fischer said, including the downhill challenge created by the Ozark Off-Road Cyclists and the new downhill trails being built now.

“In all honesty, I can’t understand how the decisions have been made by parks to convert this land into what can only be described as an extensive and exclusive mountain bike facility,” Fischer said. “On a very visceral, personal and emotional level, I have trouble wondering how anyone can justify this form of impact upon a place. I wonder how many ecological systems between the once existing plants, animals, stone formations and forest canopy have been permanently altered.”

Faith Shah agreed, saying she also hiked the area and is concerned about the ecological impact.

“I am not faulting the trail builders. I am faulting the process,” Shah said.

Tracey Johnson said she trusts the parks commission. Maybe every home in the city, new and old, should undergo its own environmental impact study, Johnson said.

“Perhaps we need to do up-to-date environmental studies on all the piping in our town,” Johnson said. “We should have environmental impact reports currently done on all our property in city limits.”

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 9, at The Auditorium.

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