City tackles improvement projects, Chamber funding
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.
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.