Delays in city pickup of yard waste inspired a lengthy discussion between members of the Little Rock Board of Directors Tuesday. Several board members said they’d received complaints from constituents for the delay, which is the result of social distancing policies the city put in place to keep public works employees from being in close contact. City crews returned to “near normal” staffing May 11 and city leaders expect the yard waste pick-up schedule to return to normal June 1. Yard waste is typically picked up the day after their garbage is picked up.
Ward 4 Director Capi Peck asked on behalf of a constituent: What about a refund for residents who haven’t seen pick-up in five weeks? Residents pay for solid waste as part of their utility bill.
“The city hasn’t seen any excess revenue or a decrease of expenses because of this,” Public Works Director Jon Honeywell said. “We’ve still been operating all of our equipment, paying all of our employees. Our costs have not changed and that’s why we haven’t been supportive of providing any rebates for yard waste.”
Ward 5 Director Lance Hines pushed back aggressively. “You’ll never get a solid waste increase if you don’t do something,” he said, referring to extending a rebate or a refund. “Pandemic be damned, we’ve got to do something.”
“We are in the middle of a pandemic,” Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said. “And while we are looking through and analyzing things, we will figure out if decisions need to be made, but we’re not at that point yet.”
Hines suggested that a refund could be recouped through the federal CARES Act. Scott said the city was looking into ways it could take advantage of federal help for a variety of issues.
Ward 2 Director Ken Richardson said it would be important to discuss priorities as a board as his constituents have different needs as, for example, Hines’.
The board unanimously approved the establishment of planned residential districts at 201 and 205 Crystal Court in Hillcrest. Both owners plan to rent spare structures on Airbnb.
The board also voted to defer consideration of a contract for $760,000 with WatchGuard Video, Inc. for body-worn cameras for the Little Rock Police Department. Scott said the board would take up the resolution at its July 21 meeting after the board gets projections on the sales tax hit the city will take because of the pandemic.
John Gilchrist, a longtime member of the LRPD Fraternal Order of Police board of directors, spoke during public comment. He said he had planned to talk about some “concerning issues I had.” But he said, “Sitting in this chair pondering the appropriateness of discussing these things with you in this forum … I’m going to defer and talk to you individually.” Ward 1 Director Erma Hendrix later asked Gilchrist to come back to the podium to tell him that if he wanted to talk about embattled Police Chief Keith Humphrey not to bother calling. Directors Richardson and Doris Wright later echoed that sentiment.
The FOP has been critical of Humphrey and Scott. There was no mention at the meeting of Scott’s earlier announcement earlier in the day that he would appoint a panel for a top-to-bottom review of the LRPD.