Hospital land purchase gets go-ahead

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At Monday evening’s Eureka Springs City Council meeting, aldermen considered a proposed ordinance approving the Hospital Commission’s purchase of three lots adjacent to existing hospital property.

Alderman David Mitchell noticed a statement that read, “That the property shall be under the control of and for the use of the Hospital Commission at this time.” He asked City Attorney Tim Weaver what would happen to the property if the worst-case scenario happened and ESH were to close. Weaver stated the property would, like all other hospital assets, ultimately be owned by the city.

Alderman Terry McClung was of the opinion the property was not worth the asking price because of its sloping terrain.

City Clerk/Treasurer Ann Armstrong read Ord. 2262, and vote to approve it on its first reading was 5-1, McClung voting No, with vote on the second reading the same. Vote to have a third reading was 4-2, McClung and alderman Kristi Kendrick voting No, and this was also the tally to approve that reading.

Then the mood changed. Alderman Mickey Schneider voted to invoke the Emergency Clause, and Kendrick asked what was the hurry. Commissioner Barbara Dicks of the Hospital Commission said the closing date of Feb. 28 was set six weeks ago, and not finishing the ordinance at that meeting would mean they would have to set a new closing date.

Kendrick was not convinced this prompted an emergency for council. McClung noted that Ord. 2262 had just been passed, so the survey could be done and architects could work off of that. He agreed there was no need for the Emergency Clause.

Dicks stood by the need to proceed. She questioned Kendrick, “So you’re telling me to call everyone involved and say council wants to wait a month?”

“Yes,” replied Kendrick.

Schneider contended that waiting would cause “major confusion, and it’s better to just get it done.”

Mitchell intervened, “As a courtesy to the commission and everyone involved attempting to secure the future of the hospital, I think we should go ahead and get it done.”

Dicks added if the deal were delayed, the owners could back out, and alderman Melissa Greene asked if someone else might not jump on the deal in the meantime.

Mitchell insisted it made no sense not to let the commission finish the deal, and a philosophical dispute over the Emergency Clause was counterproductive.

In the end, vote to read the Emergency Clause was unanimous.

Public comments

Chris Fischer again expressed concerns with the way Parks handled the new downhill bike trail project. He said he reviewed the Lake Leatherwood City Park Master Plan and the Master Trail Plan, and in his opinion both were due for an update. He pointed out that existing plans call for public input on Parks projects, plus the LLCP Master Plan makes no reference to future trails’ expansion.

Nevertheless, expansion is underway for the new downhill bike trail project.

“There was no public meeting conducted by Parks or the Trails Committee to properly inform the public about any specific trail construction prior to the Parks Commission approval of the current construction project on November 21, 2017,” Fischer told aldermen.

He asked council to consider a review of Parks authority to enter into the current trail-building contract, and examine the role council plays relative to the two Master Plans in question.

Faith Shah told council she and her husband were asked to participate in the ad hoc committee involved with the downhill trails project, and felt their questions and suggestions were neither welcome or nor addressed. She said the project happened too fast, and in her opinion the entire agenda came from a trail builder from Minnesota who did not hire local laborers. She did not question the work effort of those involved, but was disappointed Parks did not insist local workers be involved.

Final items

  • Berry presented a bid for $217,950 from Davis Construction to repair the storm drain under Flint Street. He urged council to approve awarding the bid contingent upon finances being available. The Arkansas Community Economic Development Program committed to covering the bid and Berry expected there would be another $20,000 necessary in engineers’ fees and associated expense. McClung moved to proceed, and vote was unanimous to approve.
  • Greg Moon was approved to sit on the City Advertising and Promotion Commission.
  • Berry announced there are vacancies on the Hospital and Cemetery Commissions.

Next meeting will be Monday, March 12, at 6 p.m.