Harrison City Council committees met Thursday night and the ordinance banning engine compression brakes was on the agenda for the Resource and Policy Committee. The council had been prepared in August to consider the ordinance banning engine compression brakes on 18-wheelers after complaints from citizens about the rumbling noise they make.

But during discussion, a caller asked if the city would allow such braking systems if they were muffled. That led to the ordinance being pulled and sent back to the committee.

The generic trademark name for a compression release engine brake, a Jake Brake, was stricken from the ordinance as the only change.

Council member Wayne Cone, serving as the committee’s chairman in the absence of council member Bill Boswell, said that muffled braking systems would require police officers to actually inspect the vehicle. He said city officers aren’t the Arkansas Highway Police and recommended the ordinance be returned to the full council later this month for adoption.

The proposed ordinance makes it unlawful for any person to use motor vehicle braking that is in any way activated or operated by the compression of the engine of such motor vehicle or any unit or part thereof within the city. This prohibition shall not apply if an emergency situation exists and the use of the engine compression brake is necessary for the protection of persons or property.

Penalties include: Any person violating the ordinance may be sentenced to a fine and court costs not to exceed $500.

The Harrison Street Department is authorized and directed to post such signs as approved by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Council member Mary Jean Creager declared she likes Christmas lights and made a recommendation that the city participate in funding Light Up Harrison Project 2020. The group that puts up the lights each holiday season is asking the city for $5,192.50. The money is used to replace light bulbs, buy new strings of lights, rent equipment and purchase fuel. A new Christmas tree is proposed to be added to this year’s display at a cost of $2,187.50. Labor is all volunteered.

Creager moved that the request be taken up by the council’s Finance and Budget Committee, recommending that a special account be created for the funds if the council agrees to appropriate them. Budget and Finance Committee chairman Mitch Magness agreed to the proposal and said the committee would bring the request to the full council at its Sept. 24 meeting.

A discussion of taking Parks and Recreation in as a city department was on the agenda, but the matter is still being considered by the Parks Commission. Commission meetings are planned for Sept. 14 and 21 to make plans for a possible shift in how parks are managed. A final proposal will be presented to the council at its Sept. 24 meeting, said Parks director Chuck Eddington who was participating in the meeting from home where he is in quarantine under COVID-19 protocols.

The city has allotted money to the Parks and Recreation Commission for about 30 years, then the commission operates the system autonomously. However, it hasn’t been uncommon for the commission to request additional funding, especially in later years as facilities began to deteriorate with age. The city council currently appropriates $500,000 annually to parks and recreation.

Commission chairman Bo Phillips told aldermen in August that the commission has no money in reserve and has just enough money to operate for 18 months.

Unforeseen expenses and the cancellation of money-generating tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic have further strained the commission’s financial position.

City Council members appeared in favor of making Parks and Recreation a city department, which would give the mayor and council some control over the department and the property for which the city is technically liable.

Phillips said the commissioners want to make sure Parks and Recreation will be in a more stable financial state.

The other agenda item, an amended business license ordinance, was noted, but no council members had anything to add to the discussion which has been a topic for most of the year. The ordinance, if adopted, would not go into effect until 2021.

With little else on the agenda, the meeting lasted only about 45 minutes before the committees adjourned.

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