Should the City of Benton allow golf carts to drive on the streets? The Benton Community Services Committee will meet on Tuesday, February 14th, to discuss that and other items. This meeting will be immediately following the Street Department meeting (at 5:00 p.m.). The agenda follows.
- Chair – Evelyn Reed
- Vice Chair – Ann Spencer-Cole
- Staff Liaison – John Parton, Director of Community Development
I. Establish a Quorum / Call to Order
II. Recognition of Attendees
III. Reading of Civil Statement
IV. Approval of January 10th, 2023 meeting minutes (See full copy of minutes👇🏻 after this agenda.)
V. Community Services
1. 1710 Huntley Street
2. 1511 Cedar Street
3. 1509 Cedar Street
4. 313 E. North Street
B. Litigation Report – City of Benton – (See litigation report below, after agenda.)
VI. Other Business
A. Discussion – use of Golf Carts on City streets (no new ordinance introduced at this time).
B. Planning Commission Nominee Review – Aaron Crowe – Mr. Crowe was born and raised in Benton. He grew up on River Street and kin to the Shoppach family. He has a background in Finance, Construction & Commercial Real Estate.
To: Community Services Committee
Cc: Mayor, City Council, City Clerk, CFO, Chief Of Police
From: Baxter Drennon, City Attorney
Date: January 7, 2023
In accordance with Resolution No. 1 of 2022, please accept this as the Fourth Quarter report on current litigation involving the City.
PENDING OR THREATENED LITIGATION:
Partridge, et al. vs. City of Benton, et al., Case No. 4:17-CV-00460 BSM, United State District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, Central Division. This case was brought under §1983 for the violation of civil rights for the alleged wrongful death of Keagan Schweikle, a minor. On August 30, 2021, the Court granted summary judgment on behalf of the City. Plaintiffs have filed a notice of appeal. The matter was argued before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on December 12, 2022. We anticipate an opinion in the next 60 days. The City is being represented by the Arkansas Municipal League.
Alfiya Mills v. Jamar Bennett, Individually and in His Official Capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Benton, Case No. 63-CV-21-762-3, Circuit Court of Saline County, Arkansas. This is a claim brought by Alfiya Mills against Jamar Bennett, a sergeant in the Benton Police Department. Mills claims that was discriminated and retaliated against by Bennett because she refused to engage in or continue in sexual relationship with her supervisor, Bennett. Bennett denies that the parties engaged in any sexual relationship. Mills was terminated by the Benton Police Department on December 2, 2020. Depositions in the case are expected to take place in the next 90 days. The City has not been separately named in the suit. Bennett is being represented by the Arkansas Municipal League.
Sheridan v. City of Benton, Case No. 63CV-21-951, Circuit Court of Saline County, Arkansas. Sheridan owns the property located at 1702 Lynnwood Drive. The property is known to have experienced flooding at least since 2002 and likely since it was built in the 1960s. Sheridan claims that the City has inversely condemned the property because it has not increased the storm-water drainage capacity. The City has filed a motion to dismiss the claims.
Ellis v. Walker Brown and the City of Benton, 63CV-21-1269-3, Circuit Court of Saline County, Arkansas. Ellis, an employee of TJ Maxx was allegedly arrested on November 16, 2019, following a physical altercation with a coworker. Ellis alleges that Brown did not have probable cause to arrest her and brought charges against her to smear Ellis’s reputation. The City is being represented by the Arkansas Municipal League.
Elton Paul v. Bradley Stephen Jordan and City of Benton, 60CV-22-1157, Circuit Court of Pulaski County. City employee Brad Jordan while operating a City-owned vehicle was involved in a rear end motor vehicle collision with Mr. Paul. Mr. Paul alleges personal injuries as a result of the collision. The extent of his alleged injuries and damages is unknown. The City is insured for the claim. Beyond its insurance limits, the City is immune from paying additional damages. The City is being represented by the Arkansas Municipal League.
Benton Housing Associates Limited Partnership v. City of Benton, Arkansas, 4:21- CV-1136-JM, United States District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas, Central Division. The owner of the Chapel Ridge apartments filed suit against the City alleging that the City has inversely condemned the property. The claim hinges on allegations that the construction of Alcoa Road caused flooding on the property. We have evidence that flooding, including flooding of certain apartment buildings began occurring years before the construction to expand Alcoa Road began. Regardless of any fault or liability, engineers for the City have been working with engineers representing the owner to address a solution for the flooding issue. I am currently representing the City. If we do not reach a resolution, we will turn the matter over to the municipal league for representation.
[Signed Baxter Drennon]
Community Services / Animal Control Committee Minutes
January 10th, 2023
- Council Member Evelyn Reed
- Council Member Jeff Hamm
- Council Member Judd Hart
- Council Member Frank Baptist
- Tom Farmer, Mayor
- John Parton, Community Development Director
- Bruce Thomas, Community & Economic Development Staff Liaison
Council Members present:
- Council Member Shane Knight
- Council Member Jeff Hamm
- Council Member Steve Brown
- Council Member Ann Spencer Cole
- Council Member Judd Hart
- Council Member Jeff Morrow
- Council Member Frank Baptist
- Council Member Evelyn Reed
- Council Member Steve Lee
Council Chair Evelyn Reed, declares a quorum and calls the meeting to order. Introductions are made around the room.
Chair made a motion to entertain approval of the December minutes, Council member Judd Hart made a motion, Council member Jeff Hamm seconded the motion.
Community Services Agenda:
ITEM 5A– UPDATE & DISCUSSION ON PROPOSED ORDINANCE FOR GOLF CARTS
Community Development Director John Parton started off the discussion stating that he had incorporated the changes that were taken from the last council meeting and staff discussions.
Information was verified in the Arkansas Code 126.96.36.199, simplified the basic definitions and kept the relevant information with respect to defining the golf cart.
Street use will be limited to those that are 25mph or less.
Per Arkansas code that governs the use of golf carts the use of them are prohibited on state and federal hi-ways, as well as county roads.
They’re prohibited from being used on paths and other trails defined for pedestrian traffic.
Prohibition was added to where POA’s may prohibit the use of golf carts making it their responsibility to monitor and enforce use of golf carts if they decide to enact that.
Operation guidelines state that you can not drive the golf cart if it’s been modified to exceed a speed limit of 15mph regardless of the posted speed limit, and they may only be operated during daylight hours.
Those allowed to operate the cart are the owner of the cart and the owner’s family members aged 14 and older.
Owners of businesses as well as employees making delivers will be allowed to operate these carts.
Fines are as follows, punishable by a fine of up to $100.00 for the first offense and $250.00 for the second offense.
Council Member Judd Hart asked about the necessity of liability insurance for the owner/operator of the golf cart if something were to happen.
Council Member Baptist stated he felt it was very important that insurance be obtained.
In addition he feels there should be some type of yearly licensing or fee for use of a golf cart.
Council Member Hart asked about the radius of deliveries using a golf cart.
Council Member Hart stated that it was his understanding if they could access the point of delivery by means of a road where the speed limit was 25mph or less, they can go as far as needed.
Council Member Knight stated that residents of his ward have concerns of liability and enforceable liability, responsibility and potential ramification of things getting out of hand.
And that no business owners have come before the group to explain why a golf cart is better than a bicycle when it comes to deliveries especially in the downtown/courthouse area.
He is extremely concerned that there will be issues that could cause the council/city regret.
Council Member Hart stated that he plans to vote no because he doesn’t want golf carts on the road with cars due to potential hazards.
Council Member Steve Lee stated that he can see golf cart usage in course communities but not on roads also due to the potential hazards saying that it’s not something that drivers of vehicles would be looking out for as we don’t always look out for motor cycles.
He stated he’ll also be voting against it.
Council Member Shane Knight made a motion that the council does not adopt an ordinance to move forward with this issue at this time.
Council Chair Evelyn Reed seconded the motion.
Council Member Jeff Morrow stated that not moving it forward to the council, law enforcement has no guidelines so this is making it easier for people to drive their golf carts with no guidelines or penalties.
Council Member Knight disagreed stating that had this passed and gone to council, it would’ve provided guidelines for the operation of golf carts on city streets.
Currently it is illegal for golf carts to be on city streets because it is an unlicensed vehicle on city streets.
Mayor Farmer stated that more information needed to be obtained in order to work on this.
ITEM 5B – CONDEMNATIONS
Community & Economic Development Staff Liaison, Bruce Thomas stated that there are 3 condemnations because one of the properties (724 Heights) had been torn down by the owner.
822 Rocky Street owned by, Johnny McMahan.
This house has had no utilities since February of 2019.
In the fall of 2020, condemnation proceedings had begun.
There was also a fire to the back of this structure.
Mr. McMahan purchased a remodel permit back in 2021 but very little had been done to the property. In addition, on numerous occasions, code enforcement has driven by the property and the property has been unsecured, the front door has been open leaving them with concerns of people/children that don’t belong entering the property.
It is at the recommendation of Mr. Thomas that the condemnation moves forward.
Mr. McMahan approached the council stated that he didn’t deny any of the statements that Mr. Thomas made.
He does own the property.
He had a son that passed away in 2016 and then his wife filed for divorce after 38 years of marriage.
In the divorce, he got this property in 2018.
At one point he had a renter in the home that tried to commit suicide by setting fire to the house.
He stated that he has made attempts at different times to do work on it, mostly manual labor.
He said he’s had trouble getting an electrician over there to rewire the house.
At the time he got the house, he was trying to process all that had happened to him.
For two years during COVID, he was basically a hermit.
He’s been out of town for awhile and the weather has affected his ability to work on the house.
He’s asking that the house not be condemned, it’s paid for and he will keep Mr. Thomas informed of the progress if the council will grant him additional time to fix the house.
Council Member Judd Hart asked Mr. McMahan if there was any reason why he hasn’t done anything on the house since 2021.
Mr. McMahan said he did reach out to a contractor that wanted $12,000.00 more than what the insurance paid.
He didn’t have the money and was worried about COVID.
Council Member Knight stated to Mr. McMahan that his personal decisions on how he dealt with the pandemic were his decisions and that this discussion was not about COVID.
He asked that Mr. McMahan stay on the subject of 822 Rocky St.
Council Member hart asked if the condemnation moved forward, when would this take place? Mr. Thomas said at the rate contractors are and the process in general, 60 days once quotes and title searches were done.
Council Member Morrow asked Mr. Thomas that if Mr. McMahan was working with him and showing progress, he wouldn’t go through with the condemnation.
Mr. Thomas said he would much rather see the house in a livable state.
Council Member Morrow also suggested they go ahead with the condemnation but allow Mr. McMahan the ability to work on the property and if significant progress hasn’t been made in the time it takes to get everything lined out, they have the condemnation in place and can move forward.
Council Member Judd Hart made the motion to condemn 822 Rocky Street again knowing that if good faith is done and Mr. McMahan stops doing work even if he’s put money into it, it may still be knocked down.
Council Member Steve Lee seconded the motion.
The second condemnation address is 708 Burton Street.
The owner of the property passed away in March of 2022.
There’s a brother and a half brother that don’t want anything to do with the property.
The house is falling in on itself.
Council Member Steve Lee made the motion to condemn 708 Burton Street while Council Member Jeff Hamm seconded the motion.
The third condemnation address is 921 Banner Street.
This house falling in on itself too.
It is the property of a mortgage company that code enforcement has been in contact with.
Mr. Thomas states that he has been in constant contact with their contractor.
Mr. Thomas said that they tell him their plan is to come in and raise the property and he’s told them that he plans to continue with our process.
Council Member Jeff Morrow made a motion to condemn 921 Banner Street, Council Member Shane Knight seconded the motion.
Council Member Shane Knight questioned the $6000.00 lien that is placed on 1219 West Smith Street, wanting to know the worth of the lot.
He asked if there was any correlation between the worth of the lot vs. the amount the city spends on demolition and cleaning of the property and the lien that goes against it?
Mr. Thomas said normally not.
This lot is very steep and located in a decent neighborhood.
He said it’s worth about $7500.00 at the most.
Council Member Knight states the lien is about the same amount as the property and now the likelihood of the property selling is unlikely.
Has the city ever looked at a land bank where Habitat or other organizations could look into building on these properties?
Mayor Farmer stated that back when Brad Jordan was here, he and the City Attorney looked into that but he doesn’t remember the outcome of their findings.
Additional comments were made amongst the council members.
Council Chair Reed asked if there were any other discussion to be had, there were none.
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