Council Puts Hold on Chamber/City Job at Special Council Meeting

Sep 13th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Top Story

BY LEE “CAT” McLANE

Editor/Publisher

The Beebe City Council met for a special city council meeting September 4th to discuss the possibility of continuing to share with the Beebe Chamber of Commerce the position of part-time Chamber director and Economic Development Director. Previously, the city had shared the salary 50/50 with the Chamber when Dr. Ruth Couch held that position. She recently retired.

Dr. Robert Beavers addressed the council and the few people that were present at the meeting, saying, “I think it is very important to keep the Economic Development Director with the Chamber. Beebe need an aggressive person to promote it especially with Walmart coming in. It is a prime time for these businesses to come into town. We need someone to meet with prospects face-to-face. We need an advocate to draw businesses such as chain restaurants, retail stores and more healthcare facilities. The Chamber wants to keep the relationship with the city,” Beavers concluded.

Alderman Tracy Lightfoot said, “I don’t see anything wrong with continuing with what we have in place. We should keep the office and we have to get along with this person you hire and we would have to know before we commit the office.”

Alderwoman Linda Anthony said, “It doesn’t matter who you want to hire - can you afford it?” Anthony also stated that she was against spending any money on something like this when the city police have not had a pay raise in two years.

The council discussed what added revenue the city may experience when the new Walmart opens sometime next spring.

Alderman John Johnson added, “It’s too early to see what revenue difference Walmart will bring. We need to give some of our employees raises and see where we’re at mid next year. I’m not saying in one year we won’t need an Economic Development Director.”

Mayor Mike Robertson said, “I don’t want to see the Chamber office go away from here. I’m just not sure to what extent the City can contribute within our budget.” He went on to say that at the last meeting where the issue was brought up, the Chamber had asked the  City for $25,000 as part of the salary of the proposed position with the Chamber paying $10,000.

“We are spread thin here,” Mayor Robertson said. “Our money is pretty much obligated on our existing stuff.”

Bro. Bob Hall, speaking on behalf of the Chamber stated, “I believe it is in the best interest of the city to hire this person. I believe that we could compromise and maybe the Chamber and the City could hire that person and agree to pay $10,000/$10,000. I personally believe that this year is going to be very critical.”

Rep. Jeremy Gillam said that he believed that you could get the right person for that amount of money if they had the passion for the job and it would benefit them because they did not have to commute to Little Rock everyday.

The mayor asked if the city would have any say in the selection process and Dr. Beavers said that the city could be in on the process.

Alderwoman Linda Anthony asked what was wrong with the Mayor’s Assistant helping out with the Chamber part-time. There was no additional discussion of this suggestion.

Mayor Robertson added that, “We don’t want to tell the Chamber what to do.”

With regard to how the position worked out in previous years, Clerk/Treasurer Carol  Westergren said, “It worked well for us the last 6 years and that is because that person was Dr. Couch. She didn’t try to do other people’s jobs but was willing to help. I don’t think a joint job - unless we get another Dr. Couch - will work out. Who are they going to work for?”

DeWitt Yingling, who was speaking on behalf of the Chamber too, said, “I’ve been on the committee to hire this person and have seen the resumes we are getting and I’m pleasantly surprised. I think we’re on the same page.” He was referring to a person with a passion for the advancement of the city.

Alderman John Johnson said, “Ya’ll go ahead with what you plan on doing and then we might plan on assisting at a later date.”

At this point, Alderwoman Linda Anthony made a motion to table the issue until more information on the city’s budget is known. The motion was approved 5-1, with Alderman Lightfoot voting against it.

The council did vote unanimously to allow the Chamber to continue using the office in City Hall at no cost until the City comes to a decision on whether to join in with the Economic Development Director.

In other action during the special council meeting, the council approved hiring Waste Management to pick up the brush which has been carried out to the street from the recent storms. The city will also pick up limbs as they have time. Be sure to haul your fallen tree limbs to the curb for pick-up.