The Van Buren City Council took action on several items during its meeting held Feb. 25, including the amending of an ordinance establishing places for the posting of ordinances.
The original ordinance was passed with an emergency clause during the January meeting. It called for the posting of ordinances in what the city considered to be the five most public places in Van Buren: the Van Buren Municipal Complex; the Van Buren Library; the Van Buren Municipal Annex; the Van Buren Police Department; and the Van Buren Senior Center.
Normally the local newspaper would also be used for posting ordinances, but the city felt it was no longer required to post in the Press Argus-Courier because the paper is no longer printed within the city limits.
The Press Argus-Courier still owns a building in Van Buren and distributes editions throughout the city and to subscribers in and around Van Buren.
The Attorney General’s office has issued Opinion 95-227 which sets forth a guideline for determining if a newspaper is “published” in a municipality, and the city has said that opinion could determine that the Press Argus-Courier is in fact no longer published within the city limits.
Still, the city has amended the ordinance to say, “… in consideration of the long history of the local newspaper publication in the community, continued coverage of local news in the City of Van Buren, that a large number of subscribers to the local newspaper are in the City of Van Buren, and that it is unclear under the law whether or not a Court would find that the newspaper is ‘published’ in the City of Van Buren, the City of Van Buren desires to continue to utilize the newspaper for publishing ordinances adopted by the City Council in addition to posting in the five public places previously set forth in Ordinance No. 01-2019 in accordance with Ark. Code Ann. Section 14-55-206.”
Mayor Joe Hurst said,“We’re clarifying last month’s ordinance that we passed. We met with (City Attorney) Candice (Settle), and we appreciate her research into this, making sure we’re following all the rules and understanding that the newspaper has left the city and they still rent the facility.
"We’re just wanting to make sure we’re following all the steps we need to in following the ordinances and statutes. Ultimately this is all about informing the public and communicating. That’s our primary function. We just want to clarify that yes, we will continue to post these in public places and will continue to publish them in the paper as well.”
Press Argus-Courier Publisher Kim Hattaway said, “We still own that building - not rent - and have owned it since it was built in 1969. The Press Argus-Courier has been, and still is, a viable member of the Van Buren community and a trusted source of local news.”
Unlike the ordinance passed in January, Monday’s amended ordinance passed without an emergency clause.
“I don’t think an emergency exists that would justify that,” said Settle, alluding to the fact that the original ordinance established posting locations which are still in place prior to the amended ordinance.
In other business the council passed a resolution for the fixed asset disposal of one 2013 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, originally valued at $23,307.00, which was involved in an accident and paid out by insurance, and one Canon Scan Front 220 Document Scanner originally valued at $2,154.60.
The council also approved a payment of $21,250 as financial support of Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority for the year 2019.
“This has been an ongoing effort and it’s neat because it’s a regional effort,” said Hurst. “It’s not just Van Buren that contributes. It’s Crawford County, Fort Smith and Sebastian County, even though it’s on our side of the river. The region understands it’s going to have an economic impact on everybody, so if we can’t get this going — and I believe we’re going in the right direction — it will have a positive impact on this entire river valley.”
The intermodal authority was formed by Van Buren, Fort Smith, Crawford County and Sebastian County to improve the area’s effectiveness in transporting goods while enhancing the potential for economic development in the region.
The council also took measures to revise its 2018 budget as well as approving street closures for the Art and Education Center’s Glow Run on June 8, and the First Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School June 3-7.