Jonesboro City Council creates police salary committee, hear more on shooting complex

by Michael Wilkey (mwilkey@talkbusiness.net) 79 views 

Council members approved the creation of a new committee that will look at the police salary issue in Jonesboro, while also voting not to appeal a zoning lawsuit to a higher court.

The council’s Nomination and Rules committee as well as the full council voted Tuesday (May 17) to create a Police Officer Compensation Committee. The committee, made up of council member Mitch Johnson, chief financial officer Suzanne Allen, city human resources director Dewayne Douglas, police chief Rick Elliott and four to six police officers to be determined, will look into the police salary issue.

The police salary committee will likely start initial meetings as soon as this week to begin the process, content partner KAIT reported. The terms on the committee will expire Dec. 31, 2016 or “when duties are fully satisfied.” The committee was created earlier this month after the Jonesboro Public Safety Committee agreed to look into the matter.

The police department has lost 16 officers so far this year, while 12 new officers began training Monday (May 16) in Jonesboro, content partner KAIT reported this week. Of the officers who have left, pay has been a key part of the discussions.

City officials have been working on pay and longevity issues within the department as well as for all city employees, with $1.2 million used to cover pay and longevity issues within the police department.

A key part of the discussion also involves revenue to cover the costs. Council member Darrel Dover said last week that there has been debate on whether or not use nearly $40 million in reserves to cover the cost. However, Dover said the reserves are instead fund balances set aside in several city budget items.

City officials have also set aside money in this year’s budget to cover several large capital improvement projects. They include nearly $8 million to collect nearly $80 million in state and federal highway funding and $4 million (the city’s share of a $20 million overpass project at Highland Drive and Nettleton Avenue. Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin was scheduled to discuss capital improvement projects during the council meeting, but postponed the presentation until the council’s June 7 meeting.

Council members also voted by voice vote against a plan to appeal the result of a 2012 lawsuit. The lawsuit from Dean Tyrer centered around the zoning of 38 acres of land on Aggie Road from R-1 to RS-8 Limited Use. Tyrer wanted to use the property for a possible housing development.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission voted 5-0 in September 2012 to approve the request, while council members voted 9-3 against the ordinance in October 2012. Earlier this year, Circuit Judge John Fogleman ruled the city acted improperly in the zoning request.

“The city of Jonesboro, like many cities, has excellent long range city plans for development,” Fogleman said in the March ruling. “The real problem for cities like Jonesboro is the lack of political will to follow their own well-designed plans for development. In general, these plans are developed with the involvement of professionals and have been thoroughly studied. The plans are adopted in the abstract but when the plans are applied to particular pieces of property, a city begins to meander away from the professionally prepared plans.”

In other action, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance to change zoning requirements for a developer to build a new restaurant. Roundtable Holdings, LLC is seeking to build a Newk’s Restaurant in the 1400 block of East Highland Drive. The two acre site will be built on the site of an old gas station.  The ordinance will next be heard at the council’s June 7 meeting.

Council members also received a report on a proposed $5 million shooting sports complex in Jonesboro. Elliott said Memphis based architectural firm Fisher Arnold are now working on an environmental study on the 200 acre plot of land on Moore Road. While there is no timetable, Elliott said he believes the first phase will move quickly.

City officials are also working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on a memorandum of understanding for the the project. Local police will be able to use the property for training while the general public can use the property for shooting sports, officials have said.

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