Council debates in-person meetings

Saturday, July 25, 2020

At Tuesday’s regular Blytheville City Council meeting, city council members discussed whether or not it was best to meet in person or continue virtual Zoom meetings.

During Councilman Matt Perrin’s Public Works Committee report he stated, “Last week I, councilwoman (Vera) James and councilwoman (Barbara-McAdoo) Brothers did in fact hold our meetings in public at the Ritz. They did a great job spacing us out and taking our temperatures. It was later noted by a member of the public that those who were not in attendance, seem to also be those councilmen that are happy to collect paychecks without any sort of attendance policy.”

Councilman John Musgraves responded, “We are going to continue to be safe in this pandemic, as far as paychecks go, we can settle that at the first of the year. We have been doing this for eight years, so we are not afraid to come out and discuss anything with any of our constituents, I look forward to it. However, we will take precautions. Apparently Mr. Perrin doesn’t know, this affects black and brown people the most, so I am going to take precautions. He might not want to, but I am.”

Perrin responded, “I don’t think the science reports that, I think it is very well affecting humans across the board. The point is every other local government has taken appropriate precautions.”

Mayor James Sanders said, “We are exercising as much caution as we possibly can. We are utilizing the technology that we have even to the point of purchasing each one of the council members Chromebooks. If you read the newspaper you will see that some of our firefighters have been exposed. If our chief had been exposed and went before the committee, it would have exposed everyone within that committee as well. I understand that these are undue times, I don’t know what other cities are doing but my responsibility is to this city and to make sure you are all as healthy as possible to continue doing the business of the city.”

The mayor continued, “According to the rules you all stated at the beginning of the year, your constituents are supposed to be speaking to you and you are supposed to be reporting to the council. If you cannot handle the problem or issues that they have, then those issues will come before me if they cannot be handled within the committee.”

Perrin said, “That’s fine and I understand all of that, but when we do our meetings (virtually) we are putting a barrier between us and the general public.”

Councilman John Mayberry stated, “I am someone with health conditions and I am very cautious Mr. Perrin, this is the safest way for me to attend. A lot of cases are rising in Mississippi County, we are getting more deaths, I don’t want to be in that number. It’d be safe; we can continue the Zoom, if you would like to meet at the Ritz you can. I have respiratory problems so I am staying away from large gatherings of people.”

Perrin responded , “All I would do is offer up the same advice I gave to councilman Musgraves, if you are unable to do your position on the council, I am sure there is someone in your ward that is happy to step up.”

Musgraves said, “I was able to get things done over the phone with a couple of constituents just the other day. So I am still talking to my people, I still work for my people, I can still do as a councilman and make things happen. We are still being effective.”

The council passed three ordinances, and two resolutions, including:

-an ordinance authorizing Las Brisas to apply for a private club liquor license permit

-an ordinance to waive the bid process to authorize Jowers General Contracting, Inc. to repair the collapsed sewer line on South 9th Street

-an ordinance to waive the bid process to authorize Arkansas Sewer Pipe Lining, LLC to line sewer pipe at 1116 Logan Lane

-a resolution approving the consent administrative order from ADEQ for wastewater

-a resolution awarding a contract to Roberts-McNutt, Inc. for cleaning and coating services (Waterworks)