The Hope City Board met in an unprecedented manner Tuesday for their first virtual meeting. Due to social distancing the meeting was streamed to members, the media, and the public with all board members checking in from areas away from City Hall. The meeting was delayed a few minutes to allow all board members to get connected. The meeting opened with prayer from Vice-Mayor Don Still who remembered a loss to board member Kiffenea Talley’s family and the lost of Fire Chief Dale Glanton.
The board heard a report on the census from Chandra Lavender. She noted the response rate in Hempstead County is 39.4 percent and in Hope the response is 42.8 percent. She reminded those who haven’t responded to go to 2020census.gov. Catherine Cook noted she had seen where the city’s response was up to a little over 43% late this afternoon. Lavender lauded the city’s efforts. Vice-Mayor Still suggested the city provide census information for restaurants yo put in “to-go” orders. Lavender noted the response rate in the county in 2010 was 61.8%. Board member Trevor Coffee asked if people can do the census at City Hall and Cook noted they will allow them into City Hall to use the computer in the hall.
The board voted to engage Justin’s Lawn Care to do the city hall lawn service for $298.50 per month through the end of the year.
The board looked at bids for the Class 4 Landfill expansion. The low bidder at $190,450 does not have their Arkansas contractor’s license finalized. If that doesn’t come through, there are ten other bidders and they can move to the next lowest bidder. The bids are good until May 23rd. No action was taken and the bid will be taken up at a future meeting.
Catherine Cook gave an update on the city’s response to COVID-19. She noted ballfields, playgrounds, and soccer fields are closed. The walking trail at Lake Huckabee is open. North Side is closed at night. Campers at Fair Park can’t use the city showers, rest rooms, or washers. The public works building is closed. Cook said the city is taking a look at curbside pickup. The city wide cleanup for April 23rd has been postponed. Cook said some employees are telecommuting. She noted some employees are being scheduled at different times to limit contact. Cook said they may go to once a week pick up and they might ask the public to put trash out early with employees picking it up later in the day to allow any possible COVID-19 contamination to disperse. Cook said employees are encouraged to follow social distancing and encouraged to stay home after work and on weekends. Cook noted she is participating in numerous virtual meetings. She also noted there is a youth curfew dating to 1993 in the city. Also, Cook noted the Governor is urging communities go stay away from curfews which affect commerce. She said there have only been a few large gatherings. Cook said J.R. Wilson is working to look at the situation should a curfew become necessary. Cook said should a curfew be considered, it will come before the city board. Cook noted they had a complaint on a business not observing social distancing and Code Enforcement took the Governor’s guidelines to that business. Board member Dr. Linda Clark asked what citizens should do if they wish to be tested and Cook said they should contact their health provider. Dr. Clark asked that the city put that info in the city’s public access tv channel on cable. Dr. Clark asked about wearing masks. Cook explained many of the city employees are wearing masks. Dr. Clark asked that be added to the tv channel information. Board member Reggie Easter asked if the information concerning the youth curfew is being disseminated. Cook emphasized the only curfew is the youth curfew. Dr. Clark noted it is being emphasized in the churches to watch the cable channel for updates. Board member Mark Ross asked to have the times and ages for the youth curfew be publicized. Cook said the curfew is midnight to 5am Friday and Saturday and 11pm to 5am all other days for those under 18.
Under the City Manager’s Report, Cook noted sales tax is expected to be down and she said staff is looking at what capital projects can be postponed. She said they are prepared to make major cuts to the budget up to three-quarters of a million dollars. Cook noted the AT &T and Centerpoint utility relocation on 6th is being delayed. Vice-Mayor Still noted the transfer of the Atwood’s property is being delayed by Atwood’s legal department. The Street Scape project survey work was discussed as was the Municipal League Summer Conference. The property being surveyed in the industrial park was discussed and Cook noted she anticipated delays in that project. Dr. Clark asked for a clarification as to the state’s disaster declaration and Cook gave an update on how the city could utilize that. Cook also noted the Municipal League is asking the Legislature to allow street turnback to be utilized for other city budgets although the legislature will take that under consideration.
Under Citizens Requests, Dr. Don Freel noted the juveniles who are affected by the curfew were not alive when it was passed and asked it be presented to those young people. He complimented the board’s efforts at their first virtual meeting. The meeting then adjourned.