A special election has been called in Maumelle for Oct. 9 for voters to decide on a scaled down version of Mayor Mike Watson’s proposal to fund infrastructure projects in Maumelle through a $15.5 million bond program.
The vote came during a City Council meeting that saw maneuvering and vote changing like never before in Maumelle.
After suspending the rules, the bond proposal was read three times in one night and its approval passed with five yes votes and two no votes. Alderman Burch Johnson and Ken Saunders both voted no.
Alderman Jamie Stell is in Washington for his daughter’s wedding.
Requiring only a simple majority for enactment, the ordinance easily passed, but when an emergency clause was proposed it appeared to fail by the same vote. Emergency clauses are similar to rules suspension in that they require a super majority — or seven affirmative votes.
Watson asked City Attorney JaNan Davis to rule whether he could cast the deciding vote or not.
He then announced a five-minute recess, which turned into around 30 minutes.
Davis told the council the rules on mayors casting votes is a very complicated issue with conflicting statutes, but Johnson interrupted her to ask that his vote be changed from a no to yes.
He said he was definitely against the proposal but didn’t want to "gum up the works" with a no vote of the emergency clause after it passed.
Johnson was mayor when the city agreed to furnish streets and utilities to James Freeman’s property in order to entice him to be annexed into Maumelle. That extension of Counts Massie Road would meet the city’s requirement, and it also is one of the most controversial provisions under consideration.
Saunders then asked to also change his no vote to a yes.
On Tuesday, City Clerk Joshua Clausen said the city asked the Arkansas Municipal League for an opinion as to whether or not the mayor could have legally voted on an emergency clause.
"It’s a good thing the mayor didn’t vote because the ruling from the Municipal League was that he couldn’t vote on an emergency clause," Clausen said.
As at every other hearing on the matter, a cadre of Maumelle residents lined up to speak against the proposal. Some even didn’t notice the proposal had been trimmed down and were arguing against an indoor swimming pool, which has been removed from the proposal.
Phil Bullington said he was disappointed the way the bond proposal was going to the voters. He said he and his wife drove to England last week to see the indoor swimming pool that the town of 3,000 people built for $2 million.
He also complained there had been no explanation of the road work in the proposal.
He said he finally came to the conclusion there was no room for citizen involvement in the process and no due diligence in explaining it to voters.
Lauren Rupert said it was irresponsible to add more streets to the city when it couldn’t handle what it has already.
Barbara Soden said the Counts Massie Road extension simply is designed to allow developers to put in more apartment complexes and that most of them would be in North Little Rock.
She asked for a moratorium on new apartment construction.
Alderman Rick Anderson noted the council was simply giving residents a chance to vote on the proposals.
Alderman Tony Brainerd explained that the three proposals on this ballot are "needs" and that "we should do this" and come back in 12 months and see where the city is. Perhaps then, the city could consider "wants" like the indoor swimming pool and other proposals.
He told those opposed to the proposals to work against them.
After discussion, Alderwoman Jan Hogue suggested the mayor appoint a task force of two council members, two planning commissioners and five members of the public to study what else the city needs to do in the way of infrastructure. Without opposition, her proposal was approved.
Watson explained that the current mileage of 6.6 ad valorem property taxes would continue if the voters pass the referral because those $15.5 million bonds aren’t financed for as long as the previous issuance but only for seven years.
Several other residents told the council they need to clean up the water system "mess" in Maumelle before they attempt any other projects.
Jan Bullington told council members that Lake Willastein needs some care, suggesting the city clean up that lake before constructing other projects.
She also complained about the city giving water from the lake to what she called developers.
The city has an agreement with the Maumelle Country Club and with the Country Club of Arkansas that they can draw down the lake to a minimum level with permission.
Bulling suggested the city was "doing all this for developers — that’s what got us in this mess to start with"
In other business the council approved a resolution to allow the city to dispose of seven police cars with high mileage that are being replaced.
It also authorized the mayor to sign an agreement with North Little Rock developer and Arkansas Highway and Transportation Commissioner John Burkhalter to transfer ownership of two acres the city owns in the industrial complex to allow Burkhalter to put together a deal to bring an undisclosed industry into Maumelle.
Watson said the company needs 20 acres to construct a 150,000 square-foot building, which would eventually create 30 jobs in Maumelle.
"Jobs are important here right now," Watson said.
On the reported excessive use of water last week by some residents, Watson said he thought residents believed they needed to overwater their yards and plants because they could only do so once a week. He said the new every other day restriction for two hours should work much better.
Watson also noted Alderman Doug Ladner’s announced retirement from the council, that Ladner was the senior member and that he is longest serving alderman in Maumelle’s history, having served since Aug. 1, 2001.
Alderman Tony Brainerd who also announced his retirement from the council said, "Six years is all I need of it."
He also said since he volunteered for the U.S. Army at age 18, he’d been involved in one volunteer public service project or another.
Brainerd admonished everyone to "get involved." He said he still may get mad over issues because "this is my kid’s hometown."
Having lived in Maumelle for 19 years, Brainerd said, "It’s time for someone else to step up to the plate."