Unanimous decision: Council approves Abernathy’s back pay

The Sentinel-Record 8-7-1979

The Hot Springs City Council Monday night unanimously approved $14,854.94 in back pay to Hot Springs Police Department Sgt. Thurman Abernathy.

Abernathy was paid for the period from July 7, 1977 to July 17, 1979 when he was suspended from the police department.

A lieutenant at the time of his suspension, Abernathy was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Garland County Sheriff’s Deputy Linda Edwards. When the charge was made, the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission placed him under suspension.

He was reinstated on July 17 after the commission was advised by the Hot Spring County authorities that no charges or investigations were pending in the case against Abernathy.

City Attorney Curtis Ridgeway Jr. advised the aldermen that the officer “can file litigation” if the resolution to pay his back wages did not pass.

Alderman Kenneth Adair said he believed it was “only right” to pay Abernathy.

He hasn’t been found guilty of any crime and I think it’s only right he should get the pay that’s owed to him,” Adair said.

Les Ashley, who had asked Ridgeway what the alternatives were said “We haven’t really got an alternative, have we?” and then voted to give the back pay.

A petition signed by 40 Hot Springs residents asking for several streets in their area to be repaired was accepted by the council.

Jesse Norwood, 1401 Garland St., spoke for the group and told councilmen that although Wood to Lacy and Garland to Thornton have been resurfaced, as have other portions, the entire area needs work.

“From Thornton to Grand, they just tore it up and forgot it,” Norwood said. “Have you taken a look at Lacy lately? The traffic is getting heavier and heavier because it’s being used as a feeder from Grand Avenue.”

“When I went for a walk the other day on that street, I had to hit the ditch twice to keep from being hit,” he continued. “There are a lot of elderly people in the area that can’t move that fast.”

Mayor Tom Ellsworth told Norwood the council and city officials agree something needs to be done.

“All of us agree with you entirely and hope to get to that area next year,” Ellsworth said. “As you said, we have done portions already. But, we only have a fixed number of dollars in federal grants and can only go as far as we are allowed within the guidelines of those grants.”

A new airport zoning ordinance and map were put on the second reading during Monday night’s session.

The ordinance and map are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) because runway expansion has made the existing law outdated, according to Airport Manager Ralph Disheroon.

Structures and trees must remain with a certain height to meet the code in order to assure the safety of both the aircraft and persons within the buildings.

Council members, however, decided to hold off on passing the ordinance when Jim Dey, who owns property within the new guidelines, said he and other property owners affected by the new zoning had not been notified.

“Property owners should have the opportunity to find out about this new ordinance,” Dey said, “It is objectionable for me to have these zones increased without property owners having a look at it.”

“None of the property owners in my area have been contacted,” Dey continued, “And, if you go back and look, there has never been any input from the property owners in any of the airport decisions affecting them.”

Alderman Jerry Fincher asked Dey if he had not been aware of the City Planning Commission meeting where this ordinance was first reviewed.

Dey told Fincher he had no knowledge the meeting was being held.

Alderman Joe Harrison said, “If property owners are concerned about this, then they should have a chance to speak on it.”

Planning Director Art Merkle said any property owners that might be affected by this new ordinance can come to his office and look at the new and old map and compare them.

He said the reason notification of property owners was not necessary when the airport ordinance is changed because that falls under a different state law. Fincher made a motion to carry the ordinance and map over to the next council meeting to be held on September 10th.

That motion was seconded by B(unreadable) and approved by the entire council.

Adair began the council meeting with a letter asking for an audit of the municipal sewer system.

Ellsworth told Adair that  complete audit of the sewer system is made each year and that he receives an audit report each month.

The mayor also added that sewer rates are established by a bonds ordinance passed on Dec 9, 1974, and are set according to water consumption.

“I don’t believe our sewer system is being managed properly,” Adair said. “I want to get this straightened out.”

“Why is it that my bill and my neighbor’s bill were adjusted when we went down there.  I’m concerned that if these kind of adjustments can be made that something is wrong down there.

Bill Reinhardt, manager of the water system, told the council that Adair’s bill was changed because he told the water department credit manager he had a leak during the months his water consumption average was taken.

“The rate a person pays for sewer is determined by the water consumption during six winter months,” Reinhardt said, ‘In those months, Mr. Adair’s water consumption doubled because of the leak.

“My credit manager took the remaining months and averaged them which adjusted his bill by $5.35 per month.” Reinhardt continued. “Anyone who wants to know how their bill is figured can look at the ordinance that set up the rates. If they have any questions they can come to the office and ask.”

The letter was accepted by the council but no action was taken on Adair’s request.

A resolution was unanimously accepted by the council to appropriate matching funds for a State Aid Street Program grant.

The Arkansas Highway Department will pay $57,138 of an $81,625 project to put a two-inch overlay of hot mix asphalt on Higdon Ferry, Glade Street, Mote and Lowery, and Shady Grove Road.

The city will be required to match state funds with $24,487 on the project. City Engineer Jay Bryant said earlier that these funds were anticipated and included in this year’s budget.

Ellsworth also explained to council members what was happening in the Westinghouse Bridge project.

More than $500,000 will be needed to complete the state highway department project and the city’s portion is $126,319.

Ellsworth said the city hopes to have assistance from the county to finish the project.

“Right now, we’re waiting for funds to continue the project,” Ellsworth said. “This bridge was designed by the state highway department and is their project.”

The council was also advised that the Public Safety committee was reevaluating the change of Parsons Lane from two-way traffic to one-way traffic.

Dick Nolan, safety officer for the National Park Service, appeared before the council to ask aldermen not to paint the curb along Central Avenue of Bath House Row.

“Painting of the curb along Central Avenue will not serve any useful purpose and will take away from the beauty of that area. When curbing runs parallel to a lane of traffic, there is no need to indicate no parking.

“The National Park Service objects to the painting of the curb listed as item 15 of the Publix Safety Committee report.”

Alderman Les Ashley said the committee would take that under advisement. Ashley is chairman of the Public Safely Committee.

Three appointments to two city commissions were approved.

Andy Hudson’s appoint to the Civil Service Commission and U.S. Air Force retired Col. William Pisaruck’s appointment to the Airport Commission were unanimously approved.

F.L.”Hugh” Beasley Jr. was also confirmed in his appointment to the Airport commission by a vote of 11-1. Although Marge Caristianos voted against his appointment, she did not give a reason.

In other action, the council approved four amendments to the city’s zoning code. They are:

–The council rezone an 11.4 acre tract of land at the intersection of Wright Lane and Higdon Ferry Road from an R-4 medium density residential zone to a planned district.

A large home on that land will be used as a mortuary.

–An ordinance was approved to rezone Lot 6, Block 161 of the Hot Springs Reservation from an R-4, medium density residential zone to a C-tr, commercial transitional zone.

A residence at that location will be used for an insurance firm and answering service offices.  The owner has agreed to provided adequate off-street parking for patrons and  emplyees.

–Shopping center identification signs and business identification signs in a C-3, shopping center zone, were also the subject an ordinance approved.

–The Good Shepherd property on Malvern road was also rezoned from an R-4, medium density residential zone, to a planned district.

The council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s Flood Damage Prevention code to include requirements added by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since the code was passed.

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