Topics of discussions ranging from improvements being done by the Helena Advertising and Promotions Commission to the purchase of city equipment including sanitation trucks, police cars, and a fire pumper topped Tuesday's Helena-West Helena City Council agenda.

Topics of discussions ranging from improvements being done by the Helena Advertising and Promotions Commission to the purchase of city equipment including sanitation trucks, police cars, and a fire pumper topped Tuesday’s Helena-West Helena City Council agenda.

The city council meeting opened with a discussion with Jamie McCoy of River City regarding the purchase of new sanitation trucks. Mayor Jay Hollowell noted that the city has an old commercial truck now that can be sold and a new one could replace it, "We have a chance to turn that back in and make a profit in September." Hollowell continued, "We could sell it for as much as $85,000 with a payoff of $67,791.00." The sale of the old truck and purchase of a new commercial unit would include a 2-year warranty and the monthly payment for the new unit would amount to $500 less than the old unit.

The council approved to waive competitive bidding to proceed with the purchase of the new unit.

McCoy reminded the city council that sanitation workers will be trained next week. Training will include supervisors, mechanics, and operators.

The Helena A&P Commission addressed the council about a program outlining improvements throughout the community. Established through a state statute and local ordinances, the Helena A&P Commission's primary interest, according to Cathy Cunningham, is to, "Assist the community and development of those assets that will stimulate tourism."

Cunningham continued, "The key of what we are trying to do to is stimulate tourism and get more people to visit our community." She reminded the community that the 2-cent tourism tax "is from people that spend the night or purchase food in the community. It is applied to everything that is sold through restaurants or hotels."

Cunningham told the council, "We use a lot of our funding as a local match for larger projects and we think that is really important to use the money that is given to us through this tax to try to leverage additional dollars for our community." She continued, I think we have done a really good job with this."

Aside from the obvious tourist attractions given attention by the A&P, the commission has started to focus on local public recreational facilities.

"This is the first year that we have spent more money than normal on public recreational facilities, like city parks. Though we do not have the money to improve all of our city parks but we have set some priorities,” said Cunningham.

The emphasis for the A&P Commission currently is the music heritage of the community, including spirituals, gospel, blues and rockabilly. Another emphasis included the cultural heritage offerings in the community, including buildings, the Civil War and reconstruction history, civil rights and nature tourism.

Examples of improvements in the historic downtown district include the installation of new awnings on the old Nicholas Hotel by Main Street Helena within the next few months. Other improvements include bump-outs, or curb extensions on Cherry Street and a Scenic By-Ways project that will span from Biscoe Street to Cherry Street.

Adrienne Corbin, the executive director of the A&P Commission, told the city council of the 19 parks in the city, three have been improved, including 10th Street Park, Washington Park, and Cleo Dunning Park. Improvements include the removal of unsafe playground equipment, repair of equipment, and general landscaping.

Other items discussed Tuesday night include the passage of an ordnance to purchase 12 new police cars, an ordnance to purchase a residential and commercial sanitation truck, and an ordnance to grant permission for the Helena-West Helena Fire Department to sell three pumpers for the purchase of a new one over the next three years. The sale of the pumpers would net the FD money for new uniforms and the remaining would be used for local matching grant funds.

Before the closing of the meeting, councilman Larry Brown noted that he wanted to give an across the board raise to all sanitation workers. Hollowell responded, "We have not even gotten these new pieces of equipment yet. We are still paying those repair costs every month for sanitation trucks and police cars because we have to keep running what we've got."

Hollowell continued, "I do not have a problem with this coming up in the budget workshop after we've examined it but we need to look at the finances."

Ignoring the fact that the city may or may not have the money to give raises without discussing it in a budget workshop slated to begin in less than a month, a motion was made and passed that gave every hourly sanitation worker a 50 cents an hour across the board raise without consulting the city treasurer. Councilman John Huff stated, "You can let Sandy [City Clerk] look for the money or you can look for it or whatever and we look at other departments as we go." The raise went into effect Wednesday.