Technology marches on, and the city of Paragould apparently means to march along with it.

At its meeting this week the city council voted to add providers of information technology-based services to its list of professional services.

“We are wanting to upgrade our websites,” said Paragould Mayor Josh Agee at the start of the council’s Ordinance Committee meeting in advance of the regular 6 p.m. council meeting held Monday. “And we realized that technology and software management is not on our list of professional services.”

Section 19-11-801 of the Arkansas Code, Annotated, specifies various types of professional services that political subdivisions of the state (cities, counties, etc.) are not to bid: legal, financial advisory, architectural, engineering, construction management, and land surveying professional consultant services. A given city, county, etc. can add to that list by a two-thirds majority vote of the governing body (i.e. city council, Quorum Court, etc.).

So the ordinance, which the city council adopted 8-0 on the recommendation of the Ordinance Committee, adds the following to the list of professional services:

Desktop management

Software and data management

Security and firewall management

Backup solutions

Business technological needs

But not just anyone will be allowed to provide such services. “It is open to anyone,” Agee replied to a question from Ward 1 position 1 council member Mark Rowland, “but we’ll do an RFQ [Request for Qualifications] so we don’t get some high school kid working out of his basement.”

In response to a question from committee chair and Ward 2 position 1 council member Jeremy Biggs, Agee said the city is to do an RFQ each year for such service providers. “We do it for Mizan [i.e. ETC Engineers and Architects] for example,” he said. ETC has done several projects for the city, most recently number 1 fire station at 700 Highway 49 N.

The Ordinance Committee also heard, but took no immediate action on, a proposal to regulate the use of “pod”-type mini-storage containers. “We need to have a discussion about the portable storage containers that you see downtown,” said Biggs to broach the subject, “and we need to get ahead of [the issue].”

Greg Trout of the City Inspector’s Office, invited to the meeting to address the issue, said he’d received questions about the containers. Having passed out ordinances from Brookland and North Little Rock that address such containers, Trout said a major consideration in regulation appears to be a time limit for how long the units may be on a given property. “If someone wants to remodel some rooms, or even their whole house,” he said, “and wants to have a place to store their belongings while they do it, 30 days seems to be a lot of time.”

He suggested attaching a time limit to the building permit for such a container to remain on the property. “I would suggest a set number of days that’s attached to the building permit,” Trout said, “to get the stuff out of the storage container and back in their house.” He suggested, for example, 30 days after the expiration of the building permit or after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

Trout also observed the location of such storage containers would likely need to comply with property setback and property line requirements. “That seems pretty reasonable to me,” he said. “And the faster we get ahead of [the issue] the less behind we’re going to be.”

Trout noted a probable need to incorporate into such a proposed ordinance a requirement to large “roll-off” trash dumpsters at construction sites. “We don’t have anything right now,” he said.

In addition, Trout said, the use of criminal ordinances currently on the books that could be used to enforce the use of such roll-offs can require “pretty stiff” penalties. “I’d rather that we have something that says: ‘this is the way it’s supposed to be done,’” he said, “‘and these are the civil penalties that you have to pay for noncompliance.’”

Agee noted that in the two cities (Brookland and North Little Rock) whose ordinances are serving as examples for the council, both the pod containers and the roll-off dumpsters are in the same ordinance. In response to a question from Biggs, Agee said the building permits would not cost any more to include the pods. “We just want a way to track them,” he said.

On the other hand, in response to a question from Rowland, Trout acknowledged the use of roll-offs would be a requirement at construction sites.

“We’ll take recommendations,” said Agee, “and try to draft an ordinance.”

“I think the pods and the roll-offs should be separate ordinances,” said Ward 4 position 1 council member Neal Adams.

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