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Committee: ‘Go’ on public safe room

With the devastation wreaked by tornadoes in Oklahoma fresh in mind, the Cabot City Council “committee of the whole” voted to proceed in seeking grants and other aid to build community safe rooms. The recommendation was among those made to proceed to the July 15 city council meeting.

Council members Ed Long, Ann Gilliam, Rick Prentice, Angie Jones, Jon Moore, Dallan Buchanan and Kevin Davis attended the meeting. Mayor Bill Cypert presented several issues to the committee for discussion.

Monday marked the first time the city council met as a committee of the whole to consider matters in the areas of Public Works, Budget and Personnel, and Police and Fire Departments.

In the past, each department’s issues were considered by aldermen assigned to a specific committee, with each committee meeting at separate times. But soon after Cypert took office it was decided to combine all meetings in one session.

At the last city council meeting, Cypert called on the council to take a further step by forming as a committee-of-the-whole with the chairman of each committee taking the role of moderator on matters for each department.

As described in Robert’s Rules of Order, a committee of the whole, regardless of the number of members present, cannot make a final decision but only recommend an issue for consideration at a formal city council meeting. However, the rules for discussion are relaxed allowing for wider debate.

“I personally think it is a good deal,” Long remarked. There will be three discussion leaders with the entire council able to participate, he said.

“I think it will work out really, really well,” Long said.

On the safe room, Cypert remarked that the need for one in Cabot has existed for a long time but location and funding “were major issues.”

The new addition about to be built at the Veterans Park Community Center, “Is a viable option for us. It fits what we want to do,” he said.

The room would be 5,000 square feet and have a capacity of 1,000, Cypert said.

Funding remains an issue with an estimated cost of $1.2 million, although through grants the city would match 25 percent, $300,000, he said.

There are several options the city could use to raise the funds, Cypert said. Use funds from the recently completed bond issue; use the city’s capital reserve; a low-interest loan; or additional grants, he said.

Also, if costs are too great, the size of the room could be reduced, Cypert said.

Prentice remarked that safe room is needed. “I’ve been down by the police department when we’ve had bad storms and seen people wanting to get in jail,” he said.

Long agreed, saying the police department hallway fills with people seeking shelter, to the point it interferes with police business. “That was always the go-to place,” he said.

“I would not consider down-sizing it, at all,” Long said.

The committee voted for the city council to consider grant applications for a community safe room during the July 15 meeting.

In other matters, the committee recommended the call for annexation of the a tract of land at the intersection of South Rockwood Drive and Arkansas Highway 5.

Planning commission chairman Ron Craig said the action is the result of several years of discussions and planning.

The land has already been considered by the planning commission in a “pre-zone” action, Craig said. All that is needed is annexation, he said.

The committee voted to recommend the action to the city council.

In Budget and Personnel actions, the committee voted to recommend the 2014 Cabot millage ordinance be considered at the July 15 council meeting.

The ordinance is an annual requirement, and sets the city assessment levied on personal and real property. Total millage would remain at 3.5 mills. Individual assessments include .7 mills for library maintenance, .5 mill for city general, community center, parks and recreation, and maintenance of the senior citizens center, health department and library, and .4 mills to the firefighters pension fund, and to sidewalk projects.

The committee also recommended to the July 15 council meeting, the purchase of a mini excavator and a wood chipper.

Animal control director Mike Wheeler told the committee that the low-cost animal vaccination clinic held Saturday was successful. Veterinarian Karen Pallone gave nearly 300 animals almost 600 vaccinations in the drive-through operation, he said.

The cost of the vaccinations was covered by fees, half of which was returned by Pallone as a donation to the shelter, Wheeler said.

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