Alma officials are considering assistance for area residents looking to join the city through annexation by petition.

During an Alma Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, member Jim White asked about the possibility of the City of Alma helping residents who wish to petition the city for annexation with related costs.

Several city heads were in attendance on the meeting, including Mayor Keith Greene and Public Works Director Mark Yardley.

Greene said city officials already are considering helping property owners who want to become part of Alma.

"We are exploring the idea of helping petitioners with legal costs," Greene said.

In the past, petitioners have been given access to the city attorney to help with filing, but it is unclear if the city has ever helped with surveying or publishing fees, Yardley said.

Steve Rucker, Alma Planning Commission president, pointed out that under Act 991 of the 2015 Arkansas Legislature which allows annexation by 100 percent petition, petitioners would have minimum costs.

"Single petitioners contiguous to the city need only fill out a one-page form," Rucker said. "They can do it in 30 days or less."

According to Act 991, the county clerk and county assessor have 15 days to verify the petitioners’ identities, be sure all wish to have their property annexed, that the property is contiguous and verify that no enclaves will be created.

All 100 percent petitions also must be in writing, contain an accurate description of the relevant property and include a schedule of services to be extended by the city within three years.

The petition must then be verified by the county judge before being sent on the city for approval.

Any annexation petition brought to the city would have to be approved by the Alma City Council before becoming official.

Commission members also discussed changing the time that meetings are held.

Member Wayne Beck asked if the public might be better served by holding meetings after regular work hours rather than mid day.

Several residents told Beck they found it difficult to take time off work to attend the noon meetings, he said.

Rucker suggested the commission start with a public hearing scheduled for the evening, and hold the meeting after. But he noted that any change may be required by law to be permanent.

"From my standpoint, any and everything we can do to include the public is important," Rucker said.

Also during the meeting, a vice-president was selected for the commission. Member Joe Cannon made a motion that White be approved as vice-chair, and all members voted in favor.