Gentry council sees plans for city’s parks
GENTRY — Council members on April 2 saw drawings for a parks master plan which includes new locations for many amenities and the addition of soccer fields, a splash pad, tennis courts and tujlub (a traditional Hmong top-spinning game) within city parks.
The drawings were prepared by Rick McGraw of McClelland Consulting Engineers, a firm contracted by the city to help it develop a master plan for its parklands which can be used in adding amenities as funding becomes available. Included in the drawings was proposed use of city-owned land and new lands purchased adjacent to the Kansas City Southern Railroad.
The drawings propose the best use of the parklands along the railroad track for soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds and diamonds for T-ball and machine pitch.
Plans sought to unite the parklands on the south side of Main Street with the ball fields on the north. In addition to walking trails and pavilions, the Main Street Park would include one ball diamond, tennis courts, basketball courts, horseshoes, tuj lub courts, the existing skate-board park and a splash pad, as well as stage and picnic areas. Parking was added to the park plans at both locations.
The council voiced approval of the plans, but that does not mean all the amenities will be built in the immediate future. The plans will enable the city to provide and improve amenities as money becomes available. And, having the plans prepared will enable the city to begin moving forward and to apply for grant funds to begin building new amenities.
In other action, the council approved resolutions authorizing the mayor to apply for and enter into agreements related to applying for two grants for federal funds. One is to build a walking bridge over the spillway at Flint Creek Nature Park. The proposed bridge would be a steel arch, approximately 80 feet in length with either a concrete or wooden 10-foot-wide walkway. The estimated cost for the bridge is between $65,000 and $82,000, depending on whether the walking surface is constructed of wood or concrete. The grant is an 80/20 grant, with the city required to pay 20 percent of the grant amount in funds, materials or in-kind labor. The grant does not include professional fees for the project.
The second federally-funded grant is to build a connecting sidewalk along South Smith Street between Second and Third Streets. The walkway would connect walking trails on South Third to the east side of the park and also to sidewalks to the intermediate school. This grant is also an 80/20 grant, with the city required to match 20 percent of the awarded funds.
Ordinances were passed on three readings with a single vote to accept tract splits for lands owned by Johnny and Barbara Crowder and for lands owned by Steve Young. The tract split for Young, accommodated for the railroad track passing through his property, and the tract split for the Crowders was related to land given to the city for Crowder Avenue.
The expenditure of up to $10,000 was approved for the cleanup of property at 320 N. Giles which the council had determined was in violation of city safety codes. The action makes it possible for the city to move forward in determining how best to make the property safe — whether by boarding up, repair or by demolition. Following action to mitigate the code violations, the city can place a lien against the property to recover all or some of the costs (a public hearing would be required and a determination made on the amount of the lien — up to $5,000 to board up and secure a property and up to $7,500 for demolition).
The council also approved a letter of commitment for the city to be a part of Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Competitive Communities Initiative, a program to help cities and communities be prepared and more attractive to potential businesses, investors and developers looking for a location with necessary resources and skilled labor. Participation was viewed as a positive step to help the city become more competitive in bringing more jobs and industry to the community.
The council approved records destruction affidavits for the police department and for the city to have documents and records, no longer needed and which meet legal requirements for destruction, shredded at an upcoming shred event in Gentry.
Kevin Johnston, Gentry’s mayor, announced committee appointments for the current year: Personnel Committee — Jason Barrett, Janice Arnold and Dan Erskin; Street and Alley — Warren Norman, Michael Crawford and James Thorburn; Water and Wastewater — James Furgason, Crawford and Erskin; Parks and Cemetery — Crawford, Arnold and Todd Wagner; Finance — Arnold, Furgason and Barrett; Fire — Thorburn, Barrett and Norman; Police — Erskin, Furgason and Wagner; Safety — Fire Chief Vester Cripps, Police Chief Keith Smith, Laymon Donohew, Mark Smithson; Library and Senior Center — Wagner, Norman and Thorburn; Economic Development — Janie Parks, Arnold, Furgason, Barrett and Tonya Carney.