Ques­tion of expanding City Coun­cil arises

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NETTE BEARD abeard@nwadg.com

The Pea Ridge City Coun­cil is com­prised of four mem­bers each of whom lives within one of the four wards of the city. When the last cen­sus came in, city of­fi­cials dis­cussed adding an­other ward and an­other coun­cil mem­ber.

City res­i­dent Boyd McNiel, who ran for mayor in 2006, re­quested to be on the agenda for the Au­gust City Coun­cil meet­ing, said his sub­ject was “ad­di­tional coun­cil mem­bers.”

McNiel ad­dressed the coun­cil about sev­eral is­sues, in­clud­ing the bud­get, but on the coun­cil pop­u­la­tion, said: “Does law su­percede com­mon judg­ment? Con­sider adding more wards, spe­cially with peo­ple who will not just stamp it ‘yes.’”

“This coun­cil doesn’t do that,” Mayor Jackie Crab­tree replied.

Crab­tree said that sev­eral years ago, when the city con­sid­ered adding coun­cil mem­bers, the North­west Arkansas Re­gional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion drew lines for wards at­tempt­ing to di­vide the city pop­u­la­tion equally.

“You have to rep­re­set the pop­u­la­tion equally,” the mayor ex­plained, say­ing that at that time the “lines went all over the place. It just wasn’t the right thing to do at that time.”

Crab­tree said ger­ry­man­der­ing — de­sign­ing wards to fa­vor a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date, class or of­fi­cial — must be avoided. He said draw­ing wards is not a costly process and the city al­ready pays the Re­gional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. He said the city has not had a prob­lem get­ting the coun­cil mem­bers to­gether for meet­ings.

As to dou­bling the size of the coun­cil, hav­ing two coun­cil mem­bers per ward, Crab­tree said, “You mean like Bentonville? I don’t know.” Crab­tree has served Pea Ridge for 23 years and served as the pres­i­dent of the Arkansas Mu­nic­i­pal League in 2013-14.

The city is now di­vided into four wards with the lines drawn north south on Cur­tis Av­enue and east west along Slack Street (Arkansas High­way 72) and Lee Town Road.

Ac­cord­ing to Arkansas Code 14-43-312, cities of the first class with less than 50,000 res­i­dents shall elect two al­der­men from each ward for a term of two years. There are pro­vi­sions for fouryear terms and for al­ter­nat­ing the terms for al­der­men within each ward re­sult­ing in stag­gered terms with one al­der­man elected from each ward ev­ery two years.

Ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas Mu­nic­i­pal League guide­book for mayor and coun­cil mem­bers, the du­ties of the al­der­men/coun­cil mem­bers are:

• En­acts or­di­nances and by­laws con­cern­ing mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs that are con­sis­tent with state law in or­der to pro­mote the health, safety and wel­fare of the pub­lic, (ACA §§ 14-55-102; 14-43-602).

• Has the man­age­ment and con­trol of the city fi­nances and all real and per­sonal prop­erty be­long­ing to the city (ACA § 1443-502).

• Adopts a bud­get by or­di­nance or res­o­lu­tion for op­er­a­tion of the city or town by Feb. 1 of each year. (ACA § 14-58-202).

• Sets the pro­ce­dures by or­di­nance for mak­ing pur­chases that do not ex­ceed the sum of $20,000 in cities of the first class, ex­cept as pro­vided in ACA § 14-58-104. Coun­cils in sec­ond class cities

and in towns may set pro­ce­dures for mak­ing pur­chases, ex­cept as pro­vided in sec­tion 14-58-104. (ACA § 14-58-303(b)).

• Sets the time and place for reg­u­lar city coun­cil meet­ings (ACA § 14-43501). All meet­ings should be open to the pub­lic in ac­cord with the state Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act (ACA § 25-19-106).

• May over­ride the mayor’s ap­point­ment and re­moval of depart­ment heads by a two-thirds vote of the to­tal mem­ber­ship (ACA § 14-42-110).

• May over­ride the mayor’s veto by a two-thirds vote (ACA § 14-43-504; § 1444-107; § 14-45-105).

• Calls for a spe­cial elec­tion in cities of the first class to fill the va­cancy of the un­ex­pired mayor’s term of of­fice, if the un­ex­pired term is for more than one (1) year. (ACA § 14-43401(b)).

• May fill, by ap­point­ment in cities of the first class, the va­cancy to the of­fice of mayor if the ex­pired term is less than one (1) year (ACA § 14-43-401(b)(1)).

• In a city of the sec­ond class or an in­cor­po­rated town the city coun­cil shall fill a va­cancy in the mayor’s of­fice for the un­ex­pired term by ei­ther a ma­jor­ity vote of the al­der­men or a spe­cial elec­tion (ACA § 1444-106); (ACA § 14-45-103).

• Sets the salaries of the mayor, coun­cil and other mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials. Salaries of of­fi­cials may be in­creased, but not de­creased, dur­ing the term of of­fice, ex­cept that the of­fi­cial re­ceiv­ing the salary may re­quest a de­crease. (ACA § 14-42-113).

• Ei­ther es­tab­lishes a city fire depart­ment or, by or­di­nance, en­ters into a con­tract or in­ter­local agree­ment for city fire pro­tec­tion with an ex­ist­ing fire depart­ment cer­ti­fied by the Arkansas Fire Pro­tec­tion Ser­vices Board. The coun­cil may pro­mul­gate rules to gov­ern a city fire depart­ment. (ACA § 14-53-101).

• Es­tab­lishes a city po­lice depart­ment and or­ga­nizes it un­der the gen­eral su­per­in­ten­dence of the mayor. (ACA § 14-52-101). Di­rects by or­di­nance the num­ber of sub­or­di­nate num­ber of of­fi­cers to be ap­pointed. (ACA § 14-52-201).

• Sets the rates for city util­i­ties and es­tab­lishes fees for city ser­vices.

• En­acts or­di­nances es­tab­lish­ing sales taxes and re­fer­ring same to the vot­ers.

• Takes ac­tions lead­ing to an­nex­a­tion of ter­ri­tory to the city.

• Es­tab­lishes and cer­ti­fies to the county clerk the amount of prop­erty taxes to be levied within the city or town prior to the reg­u­lar meet­ing of the quo­rum court in Novem­ber of each year. (ACA § 26-73-202; 1414-904).

• May es­tab­lish (and abol­ish) var­i­ous com­mis­sions to man­age and op­er­ate such ser­vices as parks, util­i­ties, an air­port, ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion, plan­ning and oth­ers, as pro­vided by state law.

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