The Conway City Council held a sort of preamble to its upcoming yearly retreat Tuesday evening.
The retreat will be held on April 1, and Tuesday’s special city council meeting was meant to help set the agenda by getting a first impression of what the public and city department heads want to talk about at the retreat.
It was decided in December that if one city department head gets to make a pitch for more money or resources for their department, they all do.
So that’s what will happen during part of the council’s retreat — which is more of a work session despite the relaxing sounding name — that has good-naturedly been described as "the airing of grievances."
Speaking to the Council on Tuesday was Kevin Watson, a local home builder, who shared his concerns about the city’s new housing market, which he said had declined 70 percent in recent years. Councilman Andy Hawkins invited Watson to present the council with steps he would recommend to improve the local housing market. Watson said that he had "a whole list." Councilman David Grimes also asked Watson and any other home builders to give their input on city ordinances and regulations that can be changed to make some construction steps easier — "specific instances of things you see that could make more sense," Grimes said.
Resident James Quinn told the council that he wanted more transparency in the process of setting the city budget, saying that he didn’t care for "surprises" and that better long-term budget planning would prevent issues like this year’s bare-bones budget which has almost no money for capital improvement and things like travel and training costs.
Chief of Police A.J. Gary said that his department needs more patrol officers to meet its target of two policemen per thousand residents. If the city could afford to hire four new officers a year, Gary said, CPD could go from 1.7 officers per thousand residents to more like 1.9 or 2 within 4 years.
City Engineer Ronnie Hall said that the street department could use more money and resources to "rehabilitate" neighborhood street networks like those in the Smoking Oaks subdivision and south of the Conway Station Park baseball complex, and also to clear out the city's several creeks and drainage channels, which he said has to be done every few years if flooding problems are to be avoided.
Lloyd Hartzell, the city’s IT director, said that the pressing needs his department will be working to address are the updates and replacement of computers to accommodate the extinction of Windows XP and the need to replace the city’s entire wireless communication infrastructure to keep up with the increasing use of digital, rather than analog, police and emergency radios.