Busy City Council approves new budget and apartment complex among other things

By Lana Clifton

The Bryant City Council held the first meeting of 2010 on Thursday, Jan. 14. The council passed a resolution to adopt a new budget for the year unanimously. Council members had gone over the budget in special sessions prior to the January meeting.

Finance Director Gary Hollis said it was a balanced and realistic budget. “It provides a little less than $400,000 excess. That excess would be appropriated by the council for such things as revenue short falls, disasters and for priority 'B' items. It is a tight budget.”[more]

A resolution was also passed to accept a budget for the water and sewer department with a vote of six to two, with Aldermen Robby Young and Adrian Henley voting against the budget.During a water and sewer budget discussion at a former meeting, a proposed rate increase was lowered from 9 percent to 3 percent. When the change was made, the board had passed an ordinance to examine the 3 percent increase to make sure it was a proper amount for the needs of the department.

Thursday, Alderman Ken Green reminded the board and Hollis of the promise they had made to study the increase. Council members discussed what to do to stay in compliance with their ordinance. Hollis pointed out that the budget could be amended at a later time if the 3 percent was not found to be the correct amount. The city attorney, Nga Mahfouz recommended the council follow through with the review as soon as possible, but said they would need to go ahead and approve the budget.

“Voting on the resolution and adopting the budget for water is not going to violate our ordinance,” explained Mahfouz. “We are required to do this by law. Then, a review can be conducted pursuant to the ordinance. If for some reason, the budget needed to be amended, we would just do it then.”

After the council approved the budget, they unanimously passed a resolution to conduct the review on the rate increase before the April council meeting.

In other business for the beginning of the year, the board passed a resolution establishing the time of council meetings, rules for conducting council meetings, setting its meeting agenda, and for other purposes. They made one change in the date of the November meeting because it fell on a holiday. Rather than the second Thursday of the month, the November meeting will be held on the third Thursday.

Several resolutions and ordinances dealing with real estate, annexation and zoning were presented to the board at the meeting. One such ordinance involved a request by Jeremiah Oltmans of Bryant to revisit a proposed ordinance from the November meeting. The ordinance would have rezoned property located at 1930 Reynolds Road. The property is owned my Oltmans, and the rezoning would allow him to build a 22-unit apartment complex at the site. There were only seven council members present at that meeting, and the ordinance was narrowly defeated with a vote of four to three. Because the full council was not in attendance, Oltmans contacted the city and requested the ordinance be resubmitted.

At the November meeting, several citizens living near the property came forward to speak against the rezoning, citing concerns about increased traffic and crime. At the January meeting, only one citizen spoke to the council against the ordinance. Randy Coger of Neal Street addressed the council and gave his opinion.

“The issues here are much bigger than just an apartment complex,” expressed Coger. “This is about your mentality toward people who live in this area, about your vision of Bryant as a whole, about people versus money.”

Coger went on to tell the council about some of the crime and vandalism he had experienced with the increase in traffic near his home. He said he was concerned the addition of apartments would further decrease his quality of life.

In response, Oltmans addressed the council with ways he said he had tried to reduce traffic and other problems, including widening the road and putting up a back gate only accessible by emergency personnel. He also stressed that the apartments he planned to build would be high-end, executive style.

“The time for apartments is here. Bryant is growing,” said Oltmans, adding that he had met all requirements for the city. “I hate to see saying no, what kind of message, as a growing city, you are going to send to other developers, builders that are looking to come and improve the quality of life in Bryant.”

When the ordinance came up on the agenda, the board members were split down the middle with a vote of four to four. Mayor Larry Mitchell voted for the ordinance breaking the tie.

Ordinances were passed to accept voluntarily annexed land located west and south of Bishop Park, to add additional property to the Midtown traditional neighborhood development overlay plan, and to rezone property on Southeast 2nd Street and Walnut from C1 to R1. The council also voted on approval for the water department to connect water to a new phase of the Hurricane Creek Apartments.

Other city business included several items that are part of the process the city is going through to bring all human resources into compliance with the JESAP system, including making corrections to the compensation policy and approving job descriptions.

The council also approved a motion to approve a scope of duties for an architectural engineering firm for a new fire station, approved an ordinance to waive competitive bidding for flooring in the Bishop Park community center and agreed upon a franchise fee for AT&T Uverse.

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