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Keep El Dorado Beautiful is broadening its partnership with a local industry to develop a new strategy to help keep the city clean.

KEB is also seeking nonprofit status in order to make itself eligible for more support from the community.

Following a lengthy discussion Monday, the group voted to apply for a 501(c)(3) designation after KEB president Janis Van Hook explained that the group has experienced some difficulty in getting certain types of assistance, including corporate/business donations and labor from court-ordered community service, because it is not a 501 (c)(3) organization.

KEB member Jeri Ratcliff voted "no" on the measure and questioned the necessity of spending money to apply for nonprofit status.

Van Hook said she had spoken with 35th Judicial District Judge Jack Barker about directing defendants toward KEB to work off fines/penalties and community service hours.

“He said he supports us, he wants to help us, he loves the idea, but we have to become a 501 (c)(3),” Van Hook said.

“We’re a commission of the city and we’re under the umbrella and oversight of the (El Dorado City Council),” Ratcliff contended.

Tony Henry, mayoral candidate and former El Dorado alderman, suggested that the group meet with Mayor Frank Hash and Union County Judge Mike Loftin about the matter.

Ratcliff noted that KEB also falls under the auspices of Keep Arkansas Beautiful and asked if the state organization is a nonprofit group.

KEB member and Alderwoman Dianne Hammond said that if KAB is a nonprofit group, KEB would not “be under that umbrella.”

“That’s why we had the option of becoming a 501(c)(3) when we started,” Hammond said.

She later checked on the cost of filing for the nonprofit status and said the fee would be $850, which comes with a one-time reimbursement of $400.

“We would have to submit the financials each year for review,” Hammond said. “I think it would be a benefit to be a 501(c)(3) so that we could have more businesses donate to us, and it would be a tax write-off for them.”

Van Hook agreed, adding, “This question has come up more than one time. There’s one place that’s interested in donating to us, and they’ve asked if we’re a 501(c)(3).”

Ratcliff expressed concern that the group would “be spending money for no reason.”

Van Hook said KEB members Valarie Smith and Dan Roblee, — also general manager of Clean Harbors, who has donated money to KEB — are working on materials to include in an informational and sponsorship packets to distribute to potential donors.

She said the nonprofit designation could be added to the packets.

“That may be something that some people need to get on board with us, and we don’t have the tools we need to get to the next level,” Van Hook said.

Quarterly cleanups

Roblee said the group also needs to present a spending plan when asking for financial support.

He suggested that KEB expand its partnership with Clean Harbors to work with representatives from the city’s four wards to organize quarterly cleanups — one in each ward — this year.

The idea was previously proposed by former KEB Jamie Kyle, but the idea fizzled out, partly because of a lack of participation, KEB members said.

Roblee and Van Hook said they attended a meeting earlier Monday to plan the third annual community cleanup in Ward 3.

The cleanup is set for 8 a.m. until noon on April 14. Lunch will follow at 1 p.m. at Mattocks Park.

Ward 3 aldermen Willie McGhee and Kensel Spivey are once again teaming up with Clean Harbors to coordinate the event, which has drawn hundreds of participants.

Further details are forthcoming.

Roblee said the KEB and Clean Harbors should push into other wards around the city, and recruit community leaders to organize the cleanups.

Roblee and other KEB members noted that an annual litter index survey that is conducted by the group shows there are areas in each ward that need attention.

He also said Clean Harbors has committed $3,000 toward the effort, explaining that the money could be donated to teams who volunteer for the quarterly cleanups.

He said each team should be made up of at least 10 members, who are assigned sections to clean in their respective wards.

The $3,000 could be divvied up amongst each team, Roblee said.

“We’ve got have somebody driving it, like Kensel Spivey and Willie McGhee, so that we can work around their schedule. They gave us dates that worked with their schedules,” Roblee said.

Ratcliff reiterated a problem area behind Mellor Park Mall in Ward 1.

“That irrigation canal is filled up with trash. It impedes the flow of the water,” she said.

KEB members recommended that Ratcliff report the issue to the Department of Public Works.

After further discussion, KEB members decided to help organize another quarterly cleanup for the spring and two in the fall to work around hot summer temperatures.

Hammond and Mary McAdams, KEB member and also a Ward 4 alderman, said they would work in their ward to organize the second spring cleanup.

Van Hook said KEB also needed to decide if it would plan a community wide cleanup for the spring, noting that the annual Great American Cleanup is set for March 1 — May 31.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.

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