ES council allows mayor to do architectural work for the city

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

By Samantha Jones

Mayor Butch Berry is doing unpaid work for the city he serves.

On Monday night, Eureka Springs City Council approved a resolution allowing Berry to act as an architect to renovate the old fire station downtown. Berry said the council needed to approve the resolution because the renovation is made possible through a USDA Rural Development grant.

“They are basically wanting to get approval from the council that it’s OK for me to do the work,” Berry said. “This would be an unpaid job.”

“The key word is unpaid,” said alderwoman Mickey Schneider. “Because of our city laws, I was very glad to hear you say that.”

Berry said he has done this kind of work for the city in the past. The resolution says Berry has experience providing goods and services to the city and its commissions prior to his election, saying he was elected with full disclosure of his past relationship to the city. Berry is specifically authorized to do business of the same nature as his prior experience with the city, the resolution says, including but not limited to architectural services. The resolution applies to the remainder of his current term as mayor.

Alderwoman Melissa Greene moved to approve the resolution and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

Berry updated the council on the renovation of the Auditorium, reminding everyone the city applied for a grant to renovate the downstairs area into a meeting space for all city meetings. The grant would have helped pay for an elevator and ADA-compliant bathrooms, Berry said, but the city didn’t receive it.

“What is the status?” Greene asked. “We really can’t use the gym downstairs no matter what we do with it because of ADA. Is there a way down?”

Berry said he is still working with architects to draw up a plan for the renovation. The city could pay for the elevator and bathrooms out of pocket, Berry said, though he won’t know the dollar amount until he meets with the architects next week.

“I’ve instructed an architect to go ahead and proceed with the drawings to put out for bid the elevator and the bathrooms for downstairs,” Berry said. “I’ll be meeting with him next week. I’ll have a better idea.”

Once the council sees the proposed plans for the renovation, Berry said, the work can be put out for bid. Alderman Terry McClung then asked about the status of the Norris Street property, and Berry said that building is going up for bid at the end of the month.

Also at the meeting, the council addressed two items regarding food trucks that had been postponed on the agenda. The council had a workshop to discuss having food trucks at special events, Berry said. Another proposed ordinance regarding permanent structures at food truck lottery sites fell out of consideration, Berry said.

“We need to remove consideration of this ordinance,” he said.

The proposed ordinance was removed by a unanimous vote, and alderman Bob Thomas asked why the council wasn’t talking about the proposed ordinance for food trucks at special events.

“I believe at the workshop the council came to a consensus we should do a survey of business owners in town,” Thomas said.

The council can’t vote at a workshop, Thomas said, so he expected to approve the survey at a regular meeting.

“We’d have to vote on it at this table,” Thomas said.

Berry said he thought the survey was an administrative duty, saying he was prepared to send it out from his office. Berry asked city attorney Tim Weaver for guidance, and Weaver said the council can choose to vote on the matter.

“If council trusts the executive branch to do the survey, it doesn’t have to [vote],” Weaver said. “If [the council] doesn’t believe you are going to follow through with it … they have to take a vote. A vote is unnecessary if they trust it will be done.”

Thomas said that’s not why he suggested voting on the matter.

“I regret the lawyer has framed it in terms of, ‘If you want to take a vote on it, it’s because you don’t trust the mayor to do his job and you want to try to force him to do his job,’ “ Thomas said. “That’s not my point at all.”

He continued, “My point is at the last meeting we said we’d have a workshop. We had a long discussion and finally decided we wanted to have a survey done, but you can’t decide that at a workshop. You can’t make a decision at a workshop. A decision has to be made at a meeting.”

“At this point, my understanding of it was we were postponing this particular item until we had more information,” said alderwoman Susan Harman.

Thomas moved to ask Berry to get a questionnaire and bring it back to the table for the council to look at “whenever it’s ready,” and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at The Auditorium.

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