Voters in Alma will soon have the opportunity to decide whether to elect two council members from each ward to terms of four years.

An ordinance was passed referring the question to the voters during the city council’s January meeting.

Alma currently elects council members to two-year terms.

Arkansas law provides for a process to change council members to four-year terms if approved by the voters. According to the ordinance passed by the council, the decision to change was made because many municipal projects last longer than two years for planning, construction and implementation and because the council said it believes that increasing the institutional memory of the governing body would provide benefits for the citizens of Alma and the efficiency of the government.

The council determined that increasing the terms of the council members to four years and staggering their terms, would provide for better government and management of municipal projects.

“The idea on this is to get this on the ballot in front of the voters to vote on,” said Alma Mayor Jerry Martin, who then outlined what would happen during a subsequent election should the measure first be approved by the voters.

“You would have an election where all seats are up for election,” he said. “Position 1 would be for a four-year term. Position 2 would be for a two-year term. Then, in two years, you’ll have another election for Position 2 only and that would be for a four-year term. Then, in two years, you’d have another election for Position 1.”

The ordinance passed by a unanimous vote.

The council then passed a resolution that’s voted on annually in the first meeting of the year establishing the procedural rules for the city council.

The procedural rules will remain the same in 2020 as they were in 2019 with the council meetings continuing to be held on the third Thursday of each month beginning at 7 p.m. at the Alma City Hall.

The council also approved a resolution amending the budget for the fiscal year that ended in December of 2019.

The resolution came up because of the need to determine if some items in the fire department’s budget were placed in their proper line item categories.

“I know (Chief Eddie Wakefield) had questions about the fire department’s budget and possibly whether or not some items were put in the proper line items,” Martin said. “This is not something we necessarily have to pass tonight. We spoke with the auditors and as long as we’ve got something in place before we’re audited we’re fine.”

Martin left it up to Wakefield to decide whether he wanted to table the resolution or pass it and then readdress it after the corrections were made.

“I’m going to say it’s up to you if you want us to table this until that’s worked out or we can go ahead and address this tonight and then if there’s a change you feel we need to make then we can address that later on,” Martin said.

“I’m Ok with going ahead and passing it tonight and correcting it later,” Wakefield responded. “I’ve already asked for some detailed printouts from the treasurer. I just think something’s a little off and I don’t know where it’s at until I get my arms around it. But I have no reservations about passing it tonight.”

Martin added, “If there is anything that needs to be corrected then we would just correct it specifically in a separate resolution.”

During his fire department report, Wakefield announced the promotion of Marcus Brown and David Lee from captain to assistant chief positions. He noted that Jerry McCall and Ryan Decker will fill the two vacated captain positions.

“We are now back at full officer staff,” said Wakefield.

In the month of December, the Alma Fire Department assisted on a wildland fire call as well as assisting the county on a structure fire and responding to another structure fire that was inside the city limits.

There was also one reported call for an investigation following a power outage.

Public Works Director Mark Yardley informed the council that the city’s project of covering the lagoons at the water treatment plant with surface tiles is getting close to being finished pending the arrival of the remaining nine truckloads of tiles.

The council also granted his request to destroy wastewater plant records from 2016.

“We need to dispose of those in accordance with our records retention schedule,” he said.

Planning Director Buddy Gray informed the council that $4.5 million worth of construction value was recorded by his department for the city in 2019 with 21 residential permits issued and eight commercial permits issued for either commercial projects or renovations of commercial businesses.

The January meeting marked the city council’s first meeting to be streamed live on the city’s YouTube channel. Individuals can now watch those meetings live on that channel.

Voters to decide increased term limits for Alma council members