Springtown residents meet to stop road closure
SPRINGTOWN — A group of about 20 residents from Springtown and the surrounding area gathered at the Church of Christ in Springtown Thursday evening to discuss possible actions to prevent the city of Springtown from closing a portion of Aubrey Long Road, just northeast of the Don Earley Memorial Bridge in Springtown, and rerouting traffic onto a narrowed and closed section of Bredehoeft Road which was originally a part of Main Street in the town.
The concerned group of citizens voiced three goals: 1) to stop the road closure and rerouting of traffic; 2. to determine if the current city council could be prosecuted or sued for any violations of the law related to meetings, elections and actions taken; and 3) to dissolve the town of Springtown as a municipality under Arkansas law.
Discussed at the meeting were options to take legal action against council members, to obtain an injunction to stop road closure plans and to seek an investigation into alleged illegal activities on the part of the town’s mayor and council. When the meeting was finished, the initial agreed-upon course included a petition to the council to abandoned its road plans and filing a complaint with the sheriff’s office and county attorney requesting an investigation into current council elections and actions.
The meeting was called as a result of a resolution passed at the town’s regular August meeting in which the council (according to its minutes) voted to approve a plan to have traffic crossing the Don Earley Bridge rerouted to the north on Bredehoeft Road (a
street narrowed and closed off in 2014 which was once designated as Main Street), and the portion of Aubrey Long Road from the bridge to the junction of the east-west section of Bredehoeft and Aubrey Long Road on the north edge of Springtown closed to through traffic. The reason cited for the proposed change was the preservation of the “fragile karst (cave) system that surrounds the Big Spring,” also the location upon which the Preston and Karee Barrett home is situated and where at least one sinkhole opened up several years ago. The minutes include plans to hire surveying and engineering services to implement the plan. Surveying services were estimated to cost between $1,000 and $1,500. Engineering services were projected at $2,000 to $3,000, with a later expense for gravel to be put on the reopened street.
According to Terri Glenn, Springtown’s mayor, a special meeting was called for Wednesday, Sept. 20, to discuss a 2014 ordinance which narrowed the unused section of Bredehoeft Road in the city which the plan would reopen. According to Terry Glenn, Springtown’s mayor, the council decided to submit the 2014 ordinance and minutes regarding its passage to a judge to determine if the ordinance narrowing the portion of the street which the council wishes to reopen was valid or void. Requested draft minutes from the two September meetings have not yet been received by the Eagle Observer.
According to a letter from the town’s attorney, George Rhodes, read at the citizen meeting on Thursday, Rhodes suggested the council not overturn the ordinance or count it as null and void but submit it for a judicial judgment. He said the council’s overturning the ordinance or declaring it void could subject the council to lawsuits challenging their decision since it would essentially be taking back property reassigned to property owners along the old street. He suggested the lack of a supermajority in regard to suspending the rules and reading the ordinance in full or a possible conflict of interest in the presentation of the ordinance or in voting could be sufficient for a judge to declare it void.
Of concern to town residents living along the portion of the street the town wishes to reopen is that the proposed street would reach to within a few feet of one residence and possibly even take off the porch on another belonging to Paul Lemke, a former mayor of the town. Of special concern to those living north of town would be access to their homes and the highway with farm trucks and access to their homes in the case of emergencies.
Blake Webb, Highfill’s police chief, said the road plan would make it difficult or impossible for fire trucks to make the corner coming off the bridge.
Paul Lemke, a former mayor and one of the meeting’s organizers, raised questions about how the mayor’s post and council posts were filled. He questioned the filling of vacant seats and the validity of town elections due to outof-state voters.
At the Aug. 9, 2016, regular meeting, Dixie Law was appointed to serve out the remainder of Glenn’s term as Position 4 alderman of the town council following Glenn’s resignation for unstated reasons. Amanda Richardson was first nominated to fill Glenn’s term, but her nomination failed with a split 2-2 vote. Law was then nominated and the council was again split 2-2, but Mayor Preston Barrett cast a vote in favor of Law to break the tie. Barrett then administered the oath of office to Law, and the meeting continued with Law as a voting council member. At the next (Sept. 1, 2016) meeting, the council was informed by City Clerk Shane Bauman that Barrett had resigned his post as mayor, effective at midnight on Aug. 31. Council members said they were individually notified of Barrett’s decision at about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 31. Karee Barrett nominated Glenn to serve as mayor, prompting comments from the audience, including accusations of collusion made by Paul Lemke and questions regarding Glenn’s unstated reason for resigning as alderman just a few weeks prior.
“I didn’t think my voice was being heard,” Glenn said from the audience. “I thought I would have a louder voice as mayor.”
When the vote was called, Law abstained because she is Glenn’s mother-in-law. Karee Barrett and Bostwick voted yes, and Linda Taylor voted no. Don Jech was absent. Because three votes are required to make up a majority of the council, Bauman voted yes to appoint Glenn as mayor. At that time Glenn assumed leadership of the meeting and presided over a public comments section and unfinished business. City attorney George Rhodes said Glenn would have to be sworn in later at the county clerk’s office. Later in the same meeting, Bauman announced his upcoming resignation from his post as city clerk and treasurer/ recorder, saying he had closed on a house and would soon — very possibly during September — be moving out of Springtown. He said his resignation would likely precede the October meeting.
According to Lemke, Springtown no longer has a large enough “gene pool” to prevent groups from taking over the town government. Lemke, a former mayor of the town, also suggested it was time for the town to unincorporate and just be a village in the county.
Reopening this closed and narrowed street and closing a portion of Aubrey Long Road on the northeast side of the Don Earley Memorial Bridge has some residents upset and seeking to block the proposed action of the town’s council.