Tuesday night's city council meeting included discussions on the street improvement bond, base pay ordinance, and upcoming festivals and events.

Tuesday night's city council meeting included discussions on the street improvement bond, base pay ordinance, and upcoming festivals and events.

The first order of business included a discussion on Wild Hog Fest, whose permit application was approved for the event. Helena's Second Saturday festival was also discussed. Will Staley noted that the event began a few years ago with about 150 in attendance and is now averaging about 500. "This is a local event and it is all about the community coming together to celebrate a positive thing including the unique attributes about our region and our place and celebrating them," he said.

The 2014 Helena Second Saturday will consist of 6 events from 5 to 8 pm every second Saturday of the month from April through Sept. Staley asked that the time from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Cherry Street be reserved for the events.

Staley related that this year's Second Saturdays will include a new project to get local artists more involved in the event. "Project Picasso" will feature an art auction. Artists will be given a theme to paint on and the public will be able to bid on the artwork.

Ryan Bowman was then recognized to address the city council regarding the bonds that will be earmarked for street improvement. Bowman related "Our firm is serving as bond council in connection with a bond issue the voters of this city approved back in November 2013 and if you recall back in November 2012 the citizens of Arkansas approved the levying of a ½ -cent sales tax on a temporary basis that would go to road improvement." He continued, "The bond issue was offered to investors this morning by Stephens, Inc. and the ordinance that you have before you tonight actually locks those interest rates in and authorizes the issuance of those bonds."

The bond amount that will be divided among the 5 wards in Helena-West Helena amount to $1,305,000 in bonds "and secured by the city's share of the ½ -cent sales and use tax."

The ordinance passed with 8 yes and two absent (Wanda Crockett and Larry Brown were absent). The city council is charged with providing the city engineer with a list of street to be repaved.

City Engineer Ken Wieland told the city council that they need to "provide a list of streets and we will develop an overall map of all the streets and we are going to need to see what streets need repair." Wieland continued, "Some streets will need repaired before we put asphalt on them." He noted that while some streets will only need minor repairs, some would require major repairs. Mayor Arnell Willis stated, “I am telling you, a million dollars is not much when it comes to street repairs.  Come December I am going to vanish into the sunset.  The only thing we can do is compromise and get through it.”

Wieland also noted that the Kentucky Street Bridge should be open for public transportation soon.  He related that the precast understructure should be in place by the end of the month followed by final repairs including paving and the eventual reopening of the bridge.

The next order of business included a discussion on the implementation of a base pay ordinance for city employees.  Leading the discussion was councilman Eddie Clark that moved to officially increase the mayor’s pay from $45,000 to $75,000.

 “Whatever we set the mayor’s pay at, that is what the next mayor will come in receiving and I do not think that $45,000 is acceptable.”

“The mayor before this one got $99,000” Joe St. Columbia reminded the council.  The council discussed that Valley “came in at $58,000 and he raised it to $99,000.”

Jay Hollowell questioned the practicability of creating a base pay ordinance.  “If you set the pay in the budget, why do you need a base pay ordinance?”  Etherly noted that the base pay ordinance would “add clarity to this process [where] people come in and know what they are making; it brings down emotions, and friendships, and politics. In that regard it is a good idea.”