Cherokee Village City Council elects Rob Smith as new mayor pro-tem
Cherokee Village City Council met on Jan. 28, one week behind schedule. Mayor Russ Stokes opened the meeting at 6:30 p.m. After approval of the December meeting’s minutes and the current meeting’s agenda, proceedings began with a brief financial report from the mayor. Stokes said there had been an increase in 2020 finances for the city, primarily due to fiscal responsibility by the department heads and an increase in sales tax revenue. A state-of-the-city report will be provided in February. Currently, Stokes’ primary concern is with coronavirus infections within the department, which are not at epidemic levels but have been ongoing despite strict adherence to state health guidelines.
During departmental reports, a special commendation from Councilman Jerry Adams was given to the street department and Superintendent John Kylio regarding a ditch on Skyline Drive that needed cleaning out. After complaints had been made, the street department’s crew did an excellent job cleaning up the ditch and street, making it all look really nice. According to Adams, “The ditch and the street hadn’t looked that good in a long time. I appreciate their hard work.”
Larry Thomas, a Cherokee Village resident, was selected as the new chairman for the airport commission. He and two other gentlemen serving on the commission, David Neville and Ron Page, have been doing excellent work toward airport operations, and received special thanks from the mayor.
As for the grant report, Councilman Adams spoke. “In December, Cherokee Village was awarded a $32,000 grant to extend the Tohi Trail to turn into a bike trail and a walking trail, and thanks to Karen Page for all of her hard work to get to this point.” There was a virtual meeting on Jan. 7 regarding the guidelines to follow the extension plan and requirements for filing the necessary paperwork for approval (deadline March 15). Several entrances to the trail extension that were overgrown with trees and briars were cleared out with much effort to make entry paths. Adams continued, “That will add almost a whole mile to the existing trail. It’s going to be really nice.” He thanked several people involved, including John Kylio, Lanny Henderson, Chuck Fuller, Bruce Hadaway, Sherry and Roy Echols, Chuck McMann, Mayor Stokes, among others. The mayor commented that the extension of the trail will be ADA accessible.
Another grant was received through North Arkansas Arts for $100,000 to map historic and cultural sites within Cherokee Village proper and its immediate vicinity. Stokes said the University of Arkansas will assist in the project. “What this will look like when it’s done, it’ll provide access for people all over the country if they want to come here.” He added, “The city does have a financial commitment under this grant, so periodically from time to time we’ll be extending money to take care of our share.”
Mayor Stokes brought up that Tri-County Solid Waste was in some financial difficulty. “Hopefully some action can be taken among the participating cities and counties to increase their revenue contribution in order for this to keep operating. Otherwise, it could occur that recycling would no longer exist as we know it now, although the state legislature has mandated that every county must have recycling.” While Sharp County has joined forces with Izard and Fulton, “it’s been a struggle.” The mayor explained part of the problem is the materials that are being recycled have no revenue benefit.
Under items of new business, the election for mayor pro-tem began with a request for nominations from the council. Nominees included the existing mayor pro-tem, Chuck Kristopeit, and Councilman Rob Smith. Once nominations were closed, a council vote was taken by oral ballot. Smith was elected over Kristopeit by a 6-2 vote, not surprising given Kristopeit voted against himself.
A bid for the potential replacement of two police vehicles was then considered. Much discussion revolved around the fact that two vehicles for the department had been purchased just last year, yet there has been no precedent set as to a timeline for police vehicle replacement. Councilman Steve Thompson pointed out that the money to make a bid for two vehicles was already in the budget, even without additional funds from the CARES Act. Other considerations included vehicle mileage, resale values, liability risks as well as out-dated technology in the vehicles. Thompson offered, “We owe it to provide good equipment under our policemen, and our primary responsibility in this city is fire, police and roads.” If the city doesn’t give them the equipment that they need, then “we’re putting the city at risk, as far as a liability risk, in putting officers in equipment that is marginal,” Thompson said. The motion to authorize a bid for two new vehicles was unanimously passed.
Another issue about a boat used by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was raised by Carr Hill, one of several OEM people who volunteer their time and assistance to aid in search and rescues in Cherokee Village. He reported that the boat is too large to effectively navigate waterways in the city. He suggested selling the boat and replacing it with a smaller, more strategically useful, boat. Much discourse by Councilman Thompson over this focused on the fact that this boat is being used by an office that does not exist as a city department. Thompson was not discounting the valuable assistance that the OEM volunteers have provided to the city, but the needs for immediate searches and rescues in Cherokee Village are generally performed by the police and fire departments, and the latter already has two boats.
Hill reminded the council that the OEM volunteers are providing additional assistance at no cost to the city. “So why not give them the things that are appropriate strategically and financially and give them the best that we can give them since we got people who are willing to do it for free.” Hill continued, “I think that taking away a boat from OEM completely, it disables [the other departments] in situations where somebody’s drowning along the rivers or lakes.” He proposed to use proceeds from selling the oversized boat in order to buy a more strategically appropriate boat for use in searches and rescues.
Bearing in mind the two currently available boats, Councilman Smith added, “We could have a boat on the river, we could have a boat over on Lake Thunderbird. If I’m drowning in Lake Cherokee, I’d like to have a boat come after me.” He continued, “We don’t use boats until we need them, but when we need them, we really need them.” He commented that these men are offering their services, including CPR certification, on their own accord and own financing. They are not asking for money from the city to buy a replacement boat and the city could benefit from their assistance.
The motion to further consider this boat issue was brought to the floor. After oral ballots were cast, the motion failed by a 5-3 vote.
Prior to adjournment of the meeting, Councilman Adams brought up a previous motion regarding a trailer in the Santa Fe addition will be postponed until February. Also, a total of eight trailers in the Santa Fe addition are scheduled to be razed or removed; six of those belong to a group who had been ignoring the maintenance rules. Mayor Stokes said he was informed earlier in the week of Jan. 25 that the clean-up around those trailers will be done in preparation for their disposal.
The Cherokee Village City Council meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.