The Conway City Council voted to accept its new appraisal of $48,000 as its offer for land needed to build a roundabout at Favre Land and Donaghey Avenue. The property owner had countered with an appraisal of $58,000 and had notified the city that this would be their asking price. The condemnation process will go forward, and a court will decide whether $48,000 is a fair market value for the land or if the owner is entitled to more.
City Engineer Ronnie Hall said that his workers need to start the roundabout by the start of next month to get it finished before school starts. The condemnation process, by which a municipality can exercise its power of eminent domain, would allow construction to begin as soon as the city deposits its $48,000 with the court.
The council also voted to amend the corporate hangar lease contracts for the new airport. Rather than the previous 20-year lease arrangement with two options to renew for further 10-year terms, the new language creates simply a 40-year lease.
There were a few other changes to clarify language not affecting the material terms.
Interest rate requirement changes mean that the ordinance needs to be re-examined to see of these changes materially affect the authorizing the city to enter 5-year financing for the southern interchange in the Western Loop project. The council tabled this ordinance until its work session next week.
The council also accepted the nomination of Jessica Henry Spayde to the Conway Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, and in other business approved ordinances:Appropriating reimbursements funds from various entities for the Conway Police Department;Appropriating asset forfeiture funds for various departmental training & annual conference membership dues for the Conway Police Department;
The council also voted to accept the city IT department’s request to contract with Alarmtec Systems to continue to be the vendor and service provide for the city’s security video camera systems, and to hold off on a decision to continue its contract with Conway-based Kirby Communication, Inc. to be the vendor and service provider for the city’s telephone systems.
Lloyd Hartzell, the city’s chief technology officer and head of the IT department, told the council that Benton-based vendor/provider Netcom has more service personnel and can better service a city of Conway’s size, and said that he would recommend contracting to work with Netcom.
Stacy Kirby Davis, owner of Kirby Communication spoke, citing examples he said showed a lack of knowledge of the city’s telephone system by IT department administrators and generally saying that Hartzell’s recommendation to find a new vendor/service provider was motivated by a personality clash between himself and Hartzell over Kirby’s refusal to give the IT department passwords that would allow them full access to make changes to the city’s phone infrastructure.
Councilman Wes Pruitt told Kirby that he should have given the city passwords to a city-owned telephone system, and Kirby replied that it was discouraged in his industry to give that level of access to people who aren’t trained to be technicians because ultimately liability for telephone system failure falls on him and his company.
Alderman David Grimes said that he didn’t like that the first he heard of a situation "that’s been festering for a while" came in a round of arguing between Kirby and Hartzell at the meeting.
"Obviously we’ve got some conflicts with the people working together," Grimes said. "Is that enough to scrap the company and possibly pay more? To me, I’d say work it out."
Grimes asked Davis if he would give IT the passwords if the city would legally relieve his company of liability for telephone system failure and train a city employee to be a system technician. Davis said that he would.
"One problem solved," Grimes said, raising his hands in apparent frustration. Deputy City Attorney Chuck Clawson said after the meeting that he would look into how, or if, the city could amend its contracts to absolve Davis and Kirby Communications of liability for telephone system failures resulting from the city using the passwords to access the system.
"We all work with people we don’t get along with," Alderwoman Mary Smith said to both Hartzell and Davis. "You just have to suck it up and be professional about it."
In further discussion, the Council and Davis discussed whether or not Davis’ decision to not carry an email-capable cellphone was a valid complaint against him and heard different views on the wisdom of voice calls as opposed to texts or emails.
Alderwoman Shelley Mehl attempted to direct the conversation to something substantive by asking Hartzell if he had been understood to have said earlier in the meeting that Kirby Communications, which is a small company mostly operated by Davis and his wife, made the city vulnerable should something like the flu put Davis out of commission.
Davis said that his company generally wasn’t, and wouldn’t be, a one-man operation, and that he had other trained technicians on call.
Grimes then said that "it had become a little more apparent" that Davis’ decision to not carry a smartphone was maybe symptomatic of a "set in your ways" attitude that was fueling the clash between him and the IT department.
Davis asked if buying a smartphone to deal with the city would cure the problem.
"It’s more than that," Pruitt replied.
Grimes asked for a written, detailed description of what Hartzell needs from a telephone vendor/service provider and what he may not be getting from Kirby or what may not be handled right, and go from there as to whether Kirby Communications can handle it.
The council voted to table the decision until its next regular meeting.
The council also voted to approve the monthly financials and suspended the rules of order to provide notice of its intention to terminate the city’s long-running contract with Dennis F. Cantrell Field fixed-base-operator Cope Aviation Services on July 31. This was not on the agenda, but it has been planned that when the city moves to the new Cantrell Field, the airport will be run by the city in a similar fashion to a new city department, with an airport manager acting as a new "department head." This manager, to be named "very soon," Mayor Tab Townsell said.
The council also recognized and congratulated this year’s 7A state champion Conway High School girls basketball team.