Council votes to consider Community Center as meeting site, but wait…

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At Monday evening’s Eureka Springs City Council meeting, aldermen voted to move forward with drafting a lease based on the most recent proposal from the Community Center Foundation to renovate the former EAST lab for all council and commission meetings. However, the vote was not unanimous, and council might have to vote again at the next meeting.

For the first year, the agreement calls for the city to construct a hand-railed ramp at the west entrance to the building that complies with Americans with Disabilities specs. The city would also “configure the parking lot west of the Activity Center to create required handicapped parking and signage,” and furnish the meeting room as agreed upon by Mayor Butch Berry and CCF Chair Diane Murphy.

For its part, the Foundation would “perform all the interior renovation including the Community Meeting Room, the ADA-compliant restroom, entrance lobby and interior and exterior doors.” The Foundation would also provide lockable closet space for city equipment, assume all outside and inside maintenance and cleaning duties, and pay for utilities and insurance.

During years two through five of the five-year agreement, the city could pay an annual rental fee of $5000 to cover utility and maintenance costs, which Murphy said would amount to about $27 per meeting, or, as a second option, be responsible for all grounds maintenance.

Alderman Bob Thomas was first to be unsure about the status of the city in this agreement if the Foundation were to default on its lease, and alderman David Mitchell was second. He said he respected the work done by the Foundation but was uncomfortable entering into the agreement since the Eureka Springs School District owns the property, not the Foundation. “It does not seem stable,” Mitchell commented.

Both Murphy and CCF board member Blake Lasater tried to reassure council they fully intend to be around for the duration. “Our fundraising can buy out the lease in a few years,” Lasater said. “We’re not going to fail.” Murphy added the city could help the Foundation establish itself further by moving its meetings to the site.

Alderman Terry McClung stated it was a tough decision, and asked Berry about expenses the city would incur. Berry figured the city would have to provide the furniture regardless of where they moved, but site work and preparation for its part of the deal would run less than $5000.

McClung pointed out that council wanted to make a decision before the end of the year. “It’s a blind faith thing. Sometimes you have to step out there,” he said.

Berry added he thought this proposal would be a good move for the city, and McClung noted the Foundation offer was a very good deal.

Thomas stated Eureka Springs prides itself on its history, and a short lease for the space did not seem to fit.

Murphy countered that she saw the agreement fitting well with the concept of a community meeting space. She said the community five years ago cried out for the kind of environment the Foundation intends to create.

McClung said, “It’s coming down to crunch time,” and moved for the city go forward with making a commitment to the Foundation so CCF could prepare a lease for council review. Alderman Mickey Schneider provided a second to the motion saying, “It fits what the people need.”

Mitchell agreed the site had adequate parking and met the needs of city government meetings, but while he understood the part about supporting the Community Center, he had reservations.

Berry pointed out the city has not had exclusive use of the jury room in the courthouse where city meetings have been held for years.

Alderman Peg Adamson asked Murphy if the agreement had an escape clause for the city. Murphy pointed out an escape clause would be in a lease, which had not been drawn up yet. Berry assured Adamson a lease would include protections for the city.

Thomas then said he wanted to amend McClung’s motion to give the city exclusive use of the meeting room, and Adamson seconded his motion. Murphy and Lasater both stated the Foundation intends to have a community meeting space, and exclusive use for the city would conflict with their intentions. The city would have priority at all times for the room and the Foundation would make sure the room is set up for city meetings, but the idea of a community space means other groups might use the room.

Vote on Thomas’ amendment for exclusive use was 3-2, with McClung and Schneider voting against it, so it failed because it needed four votes to pass.

The vote on McClung’s motion to move forward with a commitment was 3-1-1. Voting Yes were Thomas, Schneider and McClung. Adamson voted No and Mitchell abstained. Berry cast the fourth Yes vote for a 4-1-1 tally, so the motion passed.

Later, however, Thomas announced he wanted to reconsider the vote. He said he made a mistake, although he was willing to wait until the Nov. 27 meeting to bring up the vote again.

Adamson calls it quits

Alderman Peg Adamson announced at the Nov. 13 meeting she would be resigning her seat on council effective Dec. 31. She is being called upon to care for a family member having medical issues. She said she appreciated the opportunity given her by those who voted her onto council, and encouraged anyone in Ward 2 who wants to fill her seat to announce those intentions to city hall.

Food truck lottery

City Clerk/Treasurer Ann Armstrong conducted the second food truck lottery, and pointed out the only applicants were the winners from last year – Travis Holloway, Bill Reed and Ree Slane.

Resolution 718 passed, allowing for Free Parking at downtown meters from Dec. 1 – 31.

Next city council meeting will be Monday, Nov. 27, at 6 p.m., in the Auditorium lobby. It will be preceded at 5:15 p.m. by a budget workshop.

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