The Helena-West Helena City Council reopened debt reduction discussions from last week at Tuesday night’ session. The meeting included added agenda items such as the purchase of five new cars for the Helena-West Helena Police Department and an update concerning the hiring of a new police chief. The discussions also featured the current Alcohol and Beverage Control board’s position concerning permit allowing the distribution of free alcohol during Second Saturday events and a proposed compromise for line items listed in Alderman Larry Brown’s budget presented by councilman Jay Hollowell. 

 



The Helena-West Helena City Council reopened debt reduction discussions from last week at Tuesday night’ session. The meeting included added agenda items such as the purchase of five new cars for the Helena-West Helena Police Department and an update concerning the hiring of a new police chief. The discussions also featured the current Alcohol and Beverage Control board’s position concerning permit allowing the distribution of free alcohol during Second Saturday events and a proposed compromise for line items listed in Alderman Larry Brown’s budget presented by councilman Jay Hollowell. 



City Treasurer, Patrick Roberson presented the city’s current figures and explained that the city was able to make payroll this month.  Roberson said the city owes the Internal Revenue Service $255,705,71 this does not include the less penalty fee that was waived totaling $189,633.71.



Roberson explained that the goal is to pay the debt owed the IRS by the end of the month.  Roberson broke down the outstanding checks and the outstanding deposits reporting that the current reductions made to the deficit amount totals 1,079,271.90, “which shows that the city is making a dent,” commented Roberson. “However, there are still bills that have to be paid and very little revenue coming in.” 



Mayor Arnell Willis discussed the hiring of a new police chief. 



“The long comprehensive search is almost over,” he said.  “We’re tying up some loose ends and wrapping up the background checks now.”



Willis announced that Sept.1st would be the official swearing and announcement of the new police chief at 10 a.m. at the municipal building. The festivities will include a reception. 



Attorney Chalk Mitchell reported on the Second Saturday permit requesting individuals be allowed to partake in offered alcoholic beverages and be allowed to walk around with open containers during the festivities.  Mitchell explained that he consulted with the ABC board and, “They said, basically that it’s a lot easier to get a permit to sell it than it is to get a permit to just give it away,” stated Mitchell.



Mitchell stated that even if you are in a business that offers the beverage to the public and you have an open container, you could be cited. 



“You also are asking if individuals can freely walk around with their beverages, which I feel will open up a bigger can of worms because it would be difficult to determine where they got the beverage, and whether or not they are in violation of the open container law,” he said.



Mitchell urged Will Staley, Second Saturday representative, to consider generating permits that would allow the alcohol to be sold because giving it away would be harder to control. 



“Besides, we wouldn’t be able to prevent individuals from bringing their own beverages,” said Mitchell.



Councilman Christopher Franklin passed out documents that addressed questions concerning the spending on new police cars, paying attorney Jimmie Wilson $29,000 and the mayor’s salary.



“If we are in so much trouble, financially, why then are we still spending money?” questioned Franklin.  “We spent $73,000 on new police cars, and paid Wilson $29,000, which includes the lawsuit settlement, the $5,000 retainer granted for his legal assistance and $4,000 for two other cases that he is working on,” stated Franklin. 



Willis explained that the police cars were bought with police department money.  “This did not come out of general funds,” he said.  “They had $100,000 in grant money in the police account and they said that they needed new police cars to enhance the police department.  That was the money that was used.”



Mitchell addressed Franklin concerning the legal fees spending stating, “All of these current lawsuits are being handled by the same attorneys and I am overwhelmed with litigation. I know I am good but I'm not stupid, I cannot handle all of this by myself.  I'm trying to do my job, being mindful of the current financial situation and with limited funds. Mitchell explained to the council that Wilson was not hired as a deputy attorney, he is simply helping me out when needed.”