Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TOP STORY >> Contract renewed for MEMS in Cabot

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday night voted unanimously to extend for three years the city contract with Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services.

Most of the cost for ambulance service will be paid by customers in Cabot, but the city will pay MEMS a one-time $2,207 subsidy this year. MEMS is owned by Little Rock and since state law won’t allow one city to give service to another, the city of Cabot has to make up for anticipated losses in Cabot this year.

Mayor Bill Cypert pulled a resolution that would have given him authority to hire local architect Bob Schelle to design a fire station on Hwy. 5 for the Greystone / Magness Creek area. Schelle designed the city’s animal shelter, the fire station on Hwy. 321 and also the health clinic that was completed last year.

But when the mayor looked into a complaint last week by Alderman Rick Prentice about inadequate advertising for the requests for qualifications (RFQs) for an architect to design the fire station, he learned that Schelle’s RFQ on file with the city was specific to a project and could not apply to the new fire station.

Cypert told the council in a memo Monday night meeting why he was pulling the resolution.

“There exists no clear audit trail regarding the selection of Bob Schelle as city architect other than he was assumed to be by the prior administration,” the mayor said.

“That administration asked in writing for Mr. Schelle in 2010 to submit an update to his statement of qualifications on file.

“Mr. Schelle responded and it was filed by the City Clerk on Aug. 4, 2010, his response for current qualifications in lieu of a formal request for an RFQ.

“Therefore acting upon this filing and a statement of advice from the city attorney that Mr. Schelle was, in fact, the city architect, I sponsored Resolution 15 of 2011,” he said.

Then the mayor came across an ordinance under former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh that outlined process for advertising, reviewing and selecting professionals to work for the city.

“Given the clarification and documentation of facts, I therefore will pull Resolution 15 of 2011 at the City Council meeting tonight…I agree that advertising of RFQ’s should be on a statewide basis. I will immediately restart this process,” he said.

Schelle has already done some preliminary design work on the fire station without charging the city.

The cost of the station is estimated at about $1 million. The standard fee for architects is 6 percent, so the architect for the project will be paid about $60,000.

When now State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams was mayor of Cabot he set up a council committee system to review ordinances and resolutions before they went before the full council. The four-year-long practice of the council’s public works committee was to allow voting by commissioners from planning and zoning and Cabot WaterWorks who served on the that committee.

Shortly after Cypert became mayor, he named commissioners to the public works committee and then learned from City Attorney Jim Taylor that the ordinance establishing the committees didn’t allow commissioners to be members whether they voted or not.

The discussion about whether commissioners should be appointed to council committees and if they should have voting rights if they are appointed has been ongoing for about three months.

The matter was settled Monday night when the council amended an ordinance passed in 2007 establishing how legislation gets to the council. If the council had wanted commissioners serving on their committees, they would have included them in that ordinance, but they didn’t.

With commissioners omitted, the only reason for amending the 2007 ordinance was to correct a mistake that, if it had been followed, would have severely hampered the calling of special council meetings. The 2007 ordinance erroneously said that special meetings couldn’t be held unless the media was present. The amended version says correctly that the media must be notified.

Alderman Patrick Hutton found the mistake, four years after the original version passed.