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The Bella Vista City Council heard an update on the city's covid-19 preparations and approved a resolution supporting the state highway commission's designation of Arkansas Highway 549, future U.S. Highway 71, as a scenic byway during the Monday, March 23 regular meeting.

Mayor Peter Christie said that the city has an excellent pool of unrestricted reserves to draw on as needed, well above the 25% of annual unrestricted income required by city code.

While the city expects to see some losses on sales tax as restaurant traffic slows down, grocery stores have remained busy and internet sales tax may increase as people stay home and order more goods online, he said.

Emergency workers, including police, fire and emergency medical personnel have been taking additional precautions, he said.

While city facilities have been closed to the general public, city employees have continued to work from home, with office calls being forwarded to their cellphones.

"Our city remains at this time economically strong," he said. "There have been no discussions about layoffs."

During the meeting, seats, including council members' seats, were spaced wider than usual for safety.

Fire Chief Steve Sims took meeting attendees' temperatures, logged everyone and asked questions about travel and recent illness symptoms to be on the lookout for potential COVID-19 patients.

Christie explained that the highway designation resolution was requested to gauge area municipalities' preference on the designation, which would prevent billboards on that stretch of highway.

The resolution was approved 5-1, with council member Doug Fowler voting in opposition.

Fowler said he didn't believe there was a major rush to approve this and he would like to spend more time investigating the matter, though he isn't necessarily opposed to the designation.

Fowler made a motion to table the resolution until the May regular meeting, which was seconded by council member Steve Bourke and voted down 4-2, with Bourke and Fowler in favor of tabling.

Fowler said his concern was that the inability to place billboards may prevent businesses near the interstate from advertising and highway traffic would drive along unaware of services in Bella Vista.

Councilmember Larry Wilms said he believed signage provided by ARDOT near exits, which can indicate what businesses are off that exit, should be adequate.

"I'm in support of keeping this corridor ... as pristine as you can," he said.

The council also tabled an ordinance adjusting the city's dog licensing requirements and approved an ordinance extending the window for planning commission approval; contracts for street department equipment, fire department equipment, road resurfacing and a security fence for the police department; amendments to the city's trail license agreements with the POA; selling surplus city vehicles; a contract for the Metfield greenway connector; and the appointment of Sharon Wynegar to the Bella Vista Arts Council.

General News on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: Council discusses covid-19 preparedness, supports designating 549 a scenic byway

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