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February 25, 2018

Special election to fill vacant Bentonville council seat

Special election to fill vacant Bentonville council seat

BENTONVILLE — Residents will choose the next representative for the empty Ward 3 seat as…

BENTONVILLE — Residents will choose the next representative for the empty Ward 3 seat as City Council opted for a special election rather than appoint someone to the position.

Tom Hoehn left the position after accepting a job in Dallas. Council appointed him to fill a vacancy in July.

Council action

Bentonville’s City Council met Tuesday and approved:

• Accepting four voluntary annexations into the city.

• The public art piece Sassy the Sasquatch to be installed in Park Springs Park.

• Reappointing Rick Rogers to the Board of Adjustments and Scott Eccleston to the Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee.

• Appointing of Ralph Weber to the Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee.

• Hiring Garver LLC for $265,000 for wastewater bio-solids dewatering upgrades.

• Hiring Hutchens Construction for $26,162 for paving and striping the employee parking lot at the maintenance facility.

• Hiring Woodcraft Inc. for $33,827 to install cabinets and counter tops at the maintenance facility.

• Awarding the street light installation bid to Bill’s Electric for a three-year period.

• Selling 61,000 cubic yards of top soil for $15,268.

Source: Staff report

“It looks like the earliest you could have a special election would be March 13,” George Spence, city attorney, told council members Tuesday evening. “That would mean that this position would not be seated until the second meeting of March.”

The alternative would be to give public notice, have those interested attend the next meeting where council could select who they see best fit, Spence said.

Council members didn’t have much discussion Tuesday. They talked about the options during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. They weighed the extra time it would take for an election versus the seeming lack of transparency when council appoints a person.

Ward 3 council member Bill Burckart motioned Tuesday to hold a special election, noting the seat will only remain vacant for five meetings.

The second meeting in December typically isn’t held.

The council unanimously voted for the election.

The filing period will run from Dec. 1 to noon Dec. 22. The election will be March 13.

Council members and Mayor Bob McCaslin also continued their discussion from Monday about a request to add a position in the 2018 budget to assist the Planning and Building Inspection departments, who have lost four staff to military deployment and medical issues.

Burckart asked the council and city administration Monday to consider adding a clerical position for the front desk of the Community Development Building so an employee could focus on building permits.

“The permitting process is significantly longer and more difficult than it used to be,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The staff issues have put the departments in an “unusual season,” but actions are being taken, McCaslin said.

“This is not where we’re going to stay,” he said. “We’re digging out of a big hole, and we’ll get there.”

The Planning Department is taking applications for a temporary part-time worker to help at the front desk, he said. Also, the chief building inspector returned to work Monday.

McCaslin and Shelli Kerr, interim community and economic development director, have been talking about ways to move forward for about a month, McCaslin said. He sent an email to staff explaining who was overseeing whom and what responsibilities on Oct. 25. The email was given to council members Tuesday.

Burckart said the memo didn’t detail responsibilities of individuals “trying to maintain the task load.”

McCaslin said the council’s job is to approve finances and create laws then asked Spence to elaborate.

The mayor is the executive officer of the city and makes decisions on how departments run, whereas the council has a more broad oversight, Spence said.

“As I was sitting here listening last night, I thought it went too far,” he said, explaining it’s not the council’s job to describe a particular kind of employee needed or the kind of work environment they should have.

It would be reasonable, however, for the council to ask for a report on how business is working once the temporary employee is in place, Spence said.

Burckart asked that happens at the new year.

“We can do that,” McCaslin said.

The council was also approached by community members advocating the city build its own animal shelter.

A group of about 25 were in attendance.

Erica Edwards spoke on behalf of Crystal Creek Rescue and Fabulous Felines, two organizations focused on rescuing stray cats.

The group came after learning the city was looking to take its stray dogs to the Centerton shelter instead of the Rogers shelter, she said.

The city doesn’t pick up or transport cats.

A modern shelter could streamline services and provide education to the public to help reduce the number of animals needing homes, Edwards said.

“We are simply scratching the surface of the problem,” she said.

NW News on 11/15/2017

Source: Special election to fill vacant Bentonville council seat

Special election to fill vacant Bentonville council seat


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