City tack­les im­prove­ment pro­jects, Cham­ber fund­ing

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Tia Lyons Staff Writer

The El Do­rado City Coun­cil is ex­pected to vote to­day on three re­quests that have re­ceived the OK from the El Do­rado Works Board, which ad­min­is­ters the city’s one-cent sales tax for eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

The coun­cil will con­vene a reg­u­lar meet­ing at 5:30 p.m. in the Coun­cil Cham­ber of City Hall.

Dur­ing a spe­cially called meet­ing Tues­day, the EWB ap­proved re­quests that were pre­sented by Robert Ed­monds, the di­rec­tor of pub­lic works, and the El Do­rado-Union County Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Mayor Frank Hash also fol­lowed up on a re­quest for a pro­posed project to build a pavil­ion to ac­com­mo­date tail­gat­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium.

In Oc­to­ber, Hash asked the EWB for au­tho­riza­tion to pur­sue bids for the project and for pre-ap­proval of El Do­rado Works tax dol­lars to fund the project.

The city coun­cil gave its stamp of ap­proval Nov. 8. Bids were let and opened last month, and Hash told board mem­bers Tues­day that lo­cal con­trac­tor Mat­tox Con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment sub­mit­ted the low bid of $194,702.38.

Mat­tox has pre­vi­ously worked on city pro­jects, in­clud­ing the in­stal­la­tion of new play­ground equip­ment, benches and other im­ple­ments at sev­eral city parks within the past three years.

The L-shaped, hip-roofed pavil­ion will be built on the south­east cor­ner of the TAC House prop­erty across from the sta­dium and will in­clude LED light­ing, sinks, freeze-proof wa­ter foun­tains, etc.

EWB Al­i­son Ab­son noted that the bid was good un­til Dec. 2, and Hash said Mat­tox will still honor the bid, per ap­proval of the EWB and city coun­cil.

Side­walk im­prove­ments

Af­ter con­sid­er­able dis­cus­sion, the EWB voted on

a two-pronged re­quest that will al­low Ed­monds to pe­ti­tion the Arkansas De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion for an amend­ment to the terms of a grant ap­pli­ca­tion that was sub­mit­ted to fed­eral Trans­porta­tion Al­ter­na­tivesPro­gram.

Ed­monds ex­plained that sev­eral years ago, the city be­gan ne­go­ti­a­tions with ARDoT on de­tails for planned im­prove­ments to the U.S. 82 cor­ri­dor through the state, which in­cludes U.S. 82B/ Hills­boro in El Do­rado.

The city al­ready had plans for non-road im­prove­ments — in­clud­ing Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act ac­ces­si­bil­ity, land­scap­ing, light­ing, new side­walks, curb and gut­ter im­prove­ments, etc. — for West Av­enue be­tween Hills­boro and Grove.

With the U.S. 82 project pro­gress­ing, ARDoT has folded the West Av­enue/ U.S. 167B project into its high­way im­prove­ment plans, Ed­monds told EWB mem­bers, not­ing that the TAP grant is fun­neled through ARDoT.

Ed­monds said the state has agreed to cover the West Av­enue project be­tween Hills­boro and Grove, with fu­ture plans to im­prove the en­tire length of the av­enue through town.

How­ever, the change has now frozen the $500,000 TAP that was to have been used for the West Av­enue project.

“What were re­quest­ing now is for ARDoT to ap­prove us to shift that money east of North West Av­enue to com­plete the (down­town) side­walk project we started six years ago,” Ed­monds said.

In 2012, the city launched an im­prove­ment project to re­place dam­aged side­walks down­town with con­crete pavers.

The work be­gan in the core of the Union Square District and has grad­u­ally ex­tended its way out­ward.

The first phase, which was com­pleted in 2013, was largely cov­ered by a TAP grant, with a 20 per­cent match from the city.

The work in­cluded new side­walks, wa­ter and elec­tri­cal hook-ups to ac­com­mo­date fes­ti­vals and other large out­door events and the plant­ing of new, more ur­ban-friendly trees to pre­vent the roots from dam­ag­ing side­walks.

Union County con­trib­uted $300,000 to re­place side­walks around the Union County Court­house.

The project was also com­ple­mented by $2.75 mil­lion that was ded­i­cated to side­walk im­prove­ments within the Mur­phy Arts District and its im­me­di­ate area.

The $2.75 mil­lion was part of a to­tal $13.4 mil­lion com­mit­ment that the city made to­ward the devel­op­ment of MAD.

The $13.4 mil­lion came from the EWB tax and the for­mer El Do­rado For­ward eco­nomic devel­op­ment tax.

The sec­ond phase of the side­walk im­prove­ment project was wholly cov­ered by the El Do­rado For­ward tax.

Ed­monds said the third phase pro­poses 4,600 lin­ear footage to cover:

• Cleve­land be­tween Main and Lo­cust.

• Wash­ing­ton be­tween Cedar and Pony.

• Hill be­tween Main and the MAD Playscape.

• Cedar be­tween West Av­enue and Wash­ing­ton and be­tween Hill and Jack­son.

• Lo­cust be­tween West Av­enue and Wash­ing­ton.

Ed­monds said the ini­tial cost es­ti­mate for the North West Av­enue project was $1.1 mil­lion, which in­cluded a $500,000 TAP grant and the city pitch­ing in $611,764 to meet the grant match and cover the re­main­der of the costs for 6,000 lin­ear footage.

With the pro­posed change in the grant ap­pli­ca­tion, Ed­monds said an ad­di­tional $350,000 would be needed from the city to meet the match for the grant and cover the cost dif­fer­ence for the side­walk project.

He said the amount should be enough to cover the project and in­clude a con­tin­gency for any un­fore­seen is­sues that could arise while the work us un­der way.

“Of course, we won’t have any hard num­bers un­til we get bids,” Ed­monds said.

He said the project could also in­clude new benches and other im­ple­ments.

EWB mem­ber Greg Downum asked if the city would amend an or­di­nance it pre­vi­ously adopted com­mit­ting $611,764 for the North West Av­enue project to re­flect the change for the new fund­ing re­quest.

“I think what the coun­cil will do is kill the other or­di­nance and bango-presto, it’s done,” Hash said.

EWB mem­bers also pointed out that the money would come out of the 2019 and 2020 EWB bud­gets.

Cham­ber of Com­merce

Cham­ber of­fi­cials asked the EWB to con­tinue the city’s fi­nan­cial sup­port with a $45,000 con­tract for ser­vices for 2019.

Downum in­quired about the an­nual bud­get of the cham­ber and what ser­vices the cham­ber pro­vides for the city.

Mike Du­mas, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the cham­ber, said the cham­ber’s an­nual bud­get is $366,000, which is cov­ered by the city’s $45,000 con­tri­bu­tion, $30,000 from Union County, cham­ber mem­ber­ship fees and events that are co­or­di­nated by the cham­ber, in­clud­ing the El Do­rado Christ­mas Pa­rade and the cham­ber’s an­nual meet­ing.

Du­mas said a por­tion of the bud­get is ded­i­cated to main­te­nance of the cham­ber of­fice build­ing.

Downum said he did not think ex­pen­di­tures for the of­fice build­ing fell “into the eco­nomic devel­op­ment bucket.”

Per the an­nual con­tract for ser­vices, the cham­ber serves as the eco­nomic devel­op­ment arm of the city.

“The cham­ber serves as a clear­ing­house. I get calls all the time about do we have this or do we have that, and I send those ques­tions to the cham­ber,” Hash said.

Hash, Du­mas and Bran­don Bar­nette, eco­nomic devel­op­ment project

man­ager, said the cham­ber build­ing serves as meet­ing space for busi­ness/in­dus­try prospects, ex­ist­ing busi­ness/in­dus­try and other lo­cal groups to hold board meet­ings and other events.

The cham­ber courts and fields busi­ness prospects, main­tains the city’s Grow El Do­rado web­site, which con­tains in­for­ma­tion about avail­able com­mer­cial prop­er­ties, in­fra­struc­ture, de­mo­graph­ics and other in­for­ma­tion that is of in­ter­est to busi­nesses and in­dus­tries, na­tional re­tail­ers and restau­rant chains who are in­ter­ested in mov­ing to El Do­rado.

The cham­ber also works with the Arkansas Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion and area schools, col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties and in­dus­tries to help im­prove the area’s work­force.

The EWB voted 3-1 on the $45,000 re­quest. Downum voted no and EWB mem­ber Ge­orge Cal­loway ab­stained from all EWB votes Tues­day, cit­ing his po­si­tion on the city coun­cil.

Cal­loway is fill­ing an un­ex­pired term for the Ward 3, Po­si­tion 2 seat. The term sun­sets Dec. 31.

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