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Hope City Board

By Staff, 08/3/21 8:29 PM

The Hope City Board met Tuesday at the Fair Park Community Center for their first meeting of August.

First up was consideration of amending city ordinance 937 which would define “prepared foods”It would define”prepared foods” as “any food or beverage sold for the convenience of the customer… ready consumption without further food preparation, alteration, mixing, or repackaged…. prepared, provided, sold, or served by a seller for on or off premise consumption”.  There were further clarifications in the ordinance.   Hope Police Chief  J.R. Wilson spoke and explained this stemmed from the “Two Crumbs” business inside Martin’s.  Alan Martin of Martin’s was also on hand.  City Attorney Randy Wright said the proposed changes will make the ordinance more enforcible and will help merchants understand what is expected of them.  Alan Martin spoke.  He said he  was fine with the ordinance but that there is a larger problem.  He explained the background of his family store and then explained how Martin’s came to host the “Two Crumbs” business.  He said they were viewing that business as more of a grocery store as opposed to a prepared food facility.  He said he thought if it was a “prepared food”, it was something you could eat as you walked out the door but if it was something frozen you couldn’t eat it walking out.  Martin said he wanted to do the right thing regardless of what it was.  He detailed how he had researched similar products from a local grocery store.  Martin explained how the city had sent him a certified letter stating the city thought Two Crumbs should be paying the city’s A &P tax.  He said he had spoken to the department of finance and was seeking an opinion on prepared food.  Further discussions were detailed.  Martin said the definition of prepared foods as detailed in the proposed ordinance differs from the state’s definition.  Martin further said he feels the city has not worked towards economic and population growth and in some instances the city is holding back growth.  He noted the population several decades was 10,290 and is now estimated at 9,400.  He said the tax base is shrinking.  He also noted there are a number of advantages such as the well-known people from Hope.  Martin said he believes the city is not exploiting the advantages.  He went as far to say he feels the city is impeding growth.  Martin detailed several anecdotes in which entrepreneurs and craftsmen had related their problems in working with the city on construction and development.  Martin also detailed his own problems in dealing with the city.  Martin says he has money in the bank he would like to invest in Hope but that he doesn’t think he would get a good return.  He said he has invested in businesses in Texarkana and Southaven, Mississippi.  Martin says his business in Hope is healthy but he can see the day in the future when his business might not be viable in Hope and that’s why he’s investing elsewhere.  He also said the last time one his family addressed the board was over 40 years ago when his dad spoke against urban renewal. Martin said that shuttered viable businesses.  Now the city is focused on rebuilding “historic downtown Hope”.  He suggests the city should be more about growing the town instead of depending on grants and increasing taxes.  Board member Steve Montgomery said he appreciates Martin and his business. He also says he wants to see people get away from dwelling in the past.  Montgomery says the ordinance is more about fairness.  Board member Mark Ross asked about the difference in the definition between prepared food from the proposed ordinance change and the state’s definition.  Mayor Don Still lauded the Martin family for what they’ve done for the town.  Board member Trevor Coffee also offered his thoughts about the fairness of the ordinance as opposed to attacking a specific business.  Martin said he thought the state’s definition of prepared food would jibe with the city’s definition.  He stressed he wanted to do the right thing and had hoped the city would’ve had this dialogue in January.  The city attorney then read the proposed changes for the ordinance.  The amendment passed.  Board member Dr. Linda Clark voted against it.

The board looked at a request from Four States Internet to purchase about a tenth of an acre located where the highway 278 lift station used to be.  The company has made an offer for$5,000.  The area in question is across from the Hampton inn.  Discussion ensued.  The board voted to proceed with a survey and appraisal.

The board tabled a waive bid ordinance concerning the landfill.  Discussion ensued over the matter but no action was taken.

Under the City Manager’s Report, Catherine Cook offered an abridged request from Rainbow of Challenges concerning using part of Elm and Division for a Rainbow of Challenges event, ROCtoberfest, on October 9th.  Board member Mark Ross asked about ROC blocking some of the alleys around their facility on Elm.  The board then approved the request.

Catherine Cook said they had a very successful clean up recently and the city has done most of their preparation for the Watermelon Festival.

Cook talked about the rise of COVID and asked if the city could offer a “thank you” for the city employees who have gotten vaccinated or as an incentive to get vaccinated so the city can continue to offer the level of service they have been offering the past 18 months.  Cook suggested something like a $200 bonus and/or a day off.  Cook said the local hospitals are just about full.  Cook said if all the city employees took the cash incentive it would cost about $24,000.  Cook said it would probably be less.  She said she is encouraging the city employees to have a conversation on the vaccine from a trusted health professional.  In answer to a question from the board, Cook said this would come from CARES act money.  The board voted to offer the incentive.

Cook said the street program will start next week and talked about the Street Scape program.

Board member Dr. Clark asked the board to stay up on the electrical needs at North Side Park for the Yerger Reunion.  Mayor Still and Cook detailed plans to inspect the electrical system at the park.

The board discussed some recent federal funds.  Mark Ross suggested the board continue meeting at the Community Center.  The meeting then adjourned.