It was a lengthy agenda on Tuesday night for the City Council with most items involving growth in and around Maumelle, so let’s dive right in.
The first item of old business was the second reading of three ordinances that would approve the annexation of the Pinnacle Heights development. This development will be located to the west of Ridgeland Drive and to the north of Maumelle Valley Estates. There was a public meeting held a few weeks ago that allowed residents to view the design and ask questions of the developer. This meeting went well, and I felt that everyone walked away informed and happy with the design of the new neighborhood. There wasn’t too much discussion on this development at the council meeting since we’ve been reviewing it now for a month. The vote to approve the annexation will take place on Sept. 20.
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The second item of old business was the third reading of ordinances that would approve the annexation of the Bradley Property located along Hwy. 365 and Old Maumelle Road. There were three public comments from residents who live near this property in the county. They were concerned about drainage as well as being subject to Maumelle’s rules and codes. Mayor Caleb Norris spoke to this and explained that any development that takes place in the future will require proper drainage and would likely improve the area since the property would be held to a higher standard with city ordinances. If the annexation didn’t go through, then drainage might not be addressed as well by future developments if done in the county. Regarding residents in the county having to comply with city codes, this will not be the case. If you live outside of Maumelle in the county, you do not have to follow the same codes as residents within the city limits. If an area close to you is annexed, this does not mean you also have to follow the same rules if you remain in the county. Ultimately, the annexation was approved by a 5-2 vote (with one absence). The remaining ordinances setting the zoning and land use passed 7-0 (with one absence).
Under new business, there were three items related to the O’Reilly Senior Living development, a rendering is seen above, that will be located along Crystal Hill Road across the street from the entrance to Park on the River. I attended last month’s planning commission meeting where these items were given a do-pass recommendation to the council. The architect and engineer on this project have done an excellent job designing this site and I have no doubts this will be a great addition to the community. Our area is in short supply for housing designed for Senior living, so this will be a welcome addition to the Central Arkansas area. This site will require a change in zoning and land use for the property since it’s currently zoned commercial and will need to be changed to residential. This will be voted on Oct. 4 and I expect it will be approved at that time.
Next under new business was an ordinance amending how sick leave is accrued for our police officers. If you remember back to last year, the city had to change how our police officers accrued sick leave due to it conflicting with state law. This resulted in Maumelle’s police force not being able to accrue as many sick hours as they previously were able to accrue. During the recent legislative session, state law was amended to allow cities more flexibility in how police officers can accrue sick leave. Because of this change in state law, we’re now able to go back and revise our sick leave accrual and raise the accrual back to 1,200 hours (100 12-hour shifts).
Next, the mayor brought forward a resolution that would allow for payouts to city employees using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. This resolution passed 7-0 (with one absence). Over the next year, Maumelle will receive a total of $3.7 million in funds and we’ve already received half of these funds. This resolution will allow the city to pay a one-time additional $1,500 to full-time city employees and $750 for part-time city employees. Additionally, it will allow the city to pay $1,000 to employees that are in hard-to-fill positions as determined by the Mayor. Lastly, the city will be able to offer sign-on bonuses of $2,500 to new employees in hard-to-fill positions. The total funds appropriated for these employee bonuses amount to $445,000.
As you’re likely aware, our country is facing a severe labor shortage and the city is not immune to this shortage. Our Public Works department is currently down 14 employees in their workforce. This has a direct impact on trash pickup, mowing, maintenance, etc. Our Police Department is also understaffed and having difficulties attracting candidates for our police force. Maumelle is in direct competition with the private sector for employees as well as competing with neighboring cities for municipal employees. We’ve had employees leave the city and go to other central Arkansas communities where they can receive a significant pay raise for doing the same job.
Going forward, Maumelle will have to address our city salaries sooner than later so we can recruit and retain valuable employees in the coming years. We were already behind in pay in many areas and the current labor market has only accelerated the wage gap between what the city of Maumelle offers versus what the private sector and other municipalities are offering.
The last agenda item was a resolution to amend the budget of the fire department and increase the funds available for overtime pay. There was a zero net change to the overall city budget since they were able to reduce expenses in clothing and education to make up for the increased need for overtime pay. This passed unanimously.
Stay tuned for another post in the next day regarding a benchmarking trip that 11 city staff and elected officials took to Northwest Arkansas. We spent two full days touring and learning about the pedestrian and cycling trails and it was a packed agenda. With Metroplan committing $55 Million over the next 10 years to build out these pedestrian trails, we want Maumelle to be a leader in this area and design a trail system that benefits our residents and contributes to growth in our community. This will be an exciting time for our city as we’re able to tap into Metroplan funds to further build out and enhance our trail system.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns, 501-529-1336, firstname.lastname@example.org
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