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The Siloam Springs Board of Directors discussed the possibility of allowing alcohol on city-owned property during its regular meeting Tuesday night.

It was the first reading of Ordinance 18-01 and Mayor John Mark Turner encouraged the board to "take it to the full three readings" in hopes of receiving more public feedback about the possibility of allowing alcoholic beverages for special events in city parks and on closed, city streets.

Proposed city code amendment

Chapter 74 - Parks and Recreation

Article VII - Protection of Park Patrons and Property

Sec. 74-205. — Alcholic beverages.

No person shall consume or dispense alcoholic beverages at any time on city property. However, the Board of Directors may approve the dispensing and consumption of alcohol on city property for non-commercial, community events sponsored by non-profit or civic organizations by resolution. Board approved events shall also require a special event permit and a special alcohol permit per sections 70-4 and 6-31 of this Code.

*Note: Wording in bold highlights proposed changes to existing city code by Ordinance 18-01.

"I just wanted to say that we're not approving it. We're just having the first reading," said director Frank Johnson. "We have to have three readings on an ordinance first."

If approved, the ordinance would give the board the authority to approve events on a case-by-case basis. Only non-commercial, community events sponsored by a non-profit or civic group could be considered. Organizers of each event that wanted to provide alcohol would need to go in front of the board to obtain a permit.

"The board is the gatekeeper in this case," said city administrator Phillip Patterson, who worked with city attorney Jay Williams to draft the ordinance. "This would give the board the authority to say 'yes' when it feels it's appropriate to say 'yes' without any other criteria except what's here: non-commercial community event sponsored by non-profit or civic organization."

City staff researched four other major cities on the Interstate-49 corridor to see what was allowed in those towns. While alcohol is prohibited on city property in Bentonville and Springdale, the cities of Rogers and Fayetteville do permit alcohol on "closed, city-owned parking lots or streets" during special events.

Director Brad Burns said he was the one who brought up the idea.

"This is a great starting point; It shows some flexibility," Burns said. "The site park I was referring to when I brought this up in conversation that has brought us here today to this point. The amphitheater site, sometime in the near future, may have an event where there will be a musical group that will draw a significant crowd here that may choose to have a beverage when they listen to music.

"That was my intent as the only city property that I would like to see that possibly be available for it."

There was no public input at the meeting on the topic, but directors said they have begun hearing feedback from residents.

"The only comments I've gotten have all been, 'Please don't do this,'" said director Steve Beers. "So I want to be sensitive to our citizens. Our culture, as I understand it, voted in the last statewide election that 51 percent (voted) 'No' to allow alcohol in our community and 49 (percent) to allow it. So it is a contentious issue. It is a sensitive issue."

Beers agreed that it should go through all three readings to allow time for directors to "hear from our constituents," which was echoed by the mayor and most all on the board of directors, as the proposed ordinance goes through a second and third reading during the next two meetings. The next board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 16.

In other business the board,

• Approved a revised contract with CARBO Landscaping, which is in the process of designing a park near the new library that will include an amphitheater. The revision was needed because the estimated cost of the park, which has been referred to as Medical Springs Park but has yet to receive an official name, was increased from $2 million to nearly $3 million.

• The board also approved spending $50,000, using money from the city's utility fund, to hire a financial advisor to help the board navigate through its first bond issue, should voters approve the extension of a 3/8th cent sales tax. "We want to make sure we get it right," said financial director Christina Petriches, adding how a financial advisor could potentially save money and director Beers agreed. "A good amount of money spent now ... could save us much more in three years time," Beers said.

• Siloam Springs Municipal Airport manager Sean Baker gained the approval of the board for a $45,000 taxi lane extension "at very little cost to the city" because it will mostly be funded by grants. Garver Engineering will handle the project.

• The board also went through the third reading of an ordinance that would allow grocery stores to sell wine and the second reading of an ordinance to rezone property at 2251 S. Lincoln Street where the new rodeo grounds will be located.

• Adopted a resolution to accept a $118,000 Transportation Alternative Program Grant for the East Main Street Trail and the board also authorized another grant application for the North Hico Street Trail. Both are part of the city's Master Trail Plan.

• Other resolutions adopted included amendments to sections of the city's employee handbook and another application for a grant for Tahlequah Street improvements between Country Club Road and Lincoln Street.

General News on 01/07/2018

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