The Horseshoe Bend City Council rejected a proposal Oct. 18 to increase MRID property assessments by $5 per year over the next four years after a heated debate between members of the council and the public.
The council voted 5-3 to kill the assessment increase ordinance.
"We have to listen to the people. In my ward 54 people called and said they were against the increase and 27 called and said they were for it," said Alderman Steve Boyer. "I have to vote the way people want me to," he said.
Alderman Erv Metzinger said the council needed to vote for the increase even if it is unpopular with the public.
"We need to do the right thing. A $5 increase is not that much. The MRID can use it," Metzinger said. "Steve (Boyer), you need to do what is right for the city, not what is most popular in your ward," he said.
Alderman Barbara Bell said there is a misconception with the public that the MRID spends all of its money on the Turkey Mountain Golf Course.
Amenities covered by the MRID include a public pool, miniature golf course, four lakes, tennis courts and shuffle board. The MRID also holds special events, including dances in the Loft at Hillhigh Resort.
MRID Commissioner Lee Mears said the MRID has collected $403,608 in fees this year from the golf course and pro shop. He said the MRID has spent $388,518 to maintain both.
"The golf course and pro shop are taking care of themselves," Mears said.
Bell said if any of Horseshoe Bend's amenities is shut down due to a lack of funds, it will hurt the city.
"Our future is on the line. Without this increase, we are going to die as a town," Bell said.
Alderman George Williamson said he's spoken with several people in his ward and the majority of his constituents want the MRID to increase user fees instead of assessments.
Boyer said user fees at Turkey Mountain are lower than the golf courses in Cherokee Village.
"We spent $20,000 on a miniature golf course that brought in $45 this year. The MRID needs to be careful with their money," Boyer said.
As the arguments continued, several citizens in the audience asked for the chance to speak.
One member of the audience, Nelson "Bulldog" Drummond, assailed Steve Boyer's position.
Spear ordered Drummond removed from the chamber, but quickly rescinded the order when Drummond apologized.
"I ask that we maintain order in this chamber. Let the council make the decision. It is a hard decision to make," Spear said.
After the council voted, all three MRID commissioners left the meeting. Mears was visibly upset.
Boyer, Williamson, Ron Dupler, Smiley Lenhard and Daniel Grover voted against the assessment increase. Bell, Metzinger and George Florea voted for the increase.
After the meeting, several angry citizens approached Boyer and blasted him for his position on the assessment increase.
In other council news, Industrial Commissioner Ken Ballman informed the council that the commission is dissolving until March 2005. He said the commission has been unable to find an economically feasible industrial park for the city.
Ballman said the city needs to set objectives and have an economic plan in place before the commission resumes work.
Spear asked the council to pass a motion to support the city joining the countywide EMS contract.
Spear said Horseshoe Bend had to join into the contract because Baxter Regional Ambulance Service was terminating service in Horseshoe Bend.
City Attorney Jim Short said the Izard County Quorum Court will vote to place the motion on the ballot.
If passed, the initiative would charge each household in Horseshoe Bend $50 per year for ambulance service. If it fails, Horseshoe Bend will be without ambulance service after Baxter's contract expires Feb. 28, 2005.
"I wish there was something else we could do, but this seems to be the only option," Spear said.
With Baxter, Horseshoe Bend residents didn't pay an assessment for ambulance service. Spear said Baxter terminated the contract because of financial losses.
Short said Horseshoe Bend was exempted from the countywide contract in 1980 because the city had a volunteer EMS in place.
Arkansas Emergency Transport provides the remainder of Izard County with EMS service.
The council approved the appointment of Karl Amundsen to the Airport Commission. Amundsen will complete Bruce Paulan's term. Paulan died from pneumonia over the summer. The term will end April 30, 2006.