Spring­town res­i­dents meet to stop road clo­sure

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By Randy Moll rmoll@nwadg.com

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.

Photo by Randy Moll

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.

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