In case you missed it: June 6 Town Hall Meeting

Staff photo
Paula Marinoni speaks against the university’s planned service road through Old Main Lawn during the June 6 town hall meeting.

Most of the chairs set up in the fellowship hall of St. James Missionary Baptist Church were full during the mayor’s quarterly town hall meeting, held on Tuesday, June 6.

More than 50 people turned out to hear reports from the mayor and city staff on ongoing and upcoming projects, and to voice their concerns on various issues concerning the city.

Here’s a recap of what was discussed.

Old Main Lawn Service Road

Several attendees at the meeting expressed concern over the University of Arkansas’ plans to build a road through a portion of Old Main lawn in order to service construction projects on Ozark and Vol Walker Halls on campus.

Mayor Jordan reminded those in attendance that much of the university’s plan remains outside of the city’s jurisdiction, other than the UA’s request to restrict parking on Lafayette during the construction process.

State senator Sue Madison, speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting, maintained that the university’s plan would require some city cooperation.

“This plan of the university’s will not work without accommodation from the city,” she said. “I would like to ask that the city stand firm, keep the resident parking (on Lafayette Street), and the keep the trucks off of that historic street.”

Madison added that she is working to create a public forum for residents to voice their concerns about the project.

“Representative Roebuck and I are in the process of setting a date so that we can have a public hearing on this issue,” she said.

A new city hall?

Mayor Jordan made his position known on whether or not he would support the purchase of East Square Plaza as a new city hall on Tuesday.

“I will tell you the position of the mayor is that he is not interested on raising taxes on the people to buy the building,” he said. “I can not speak for the city council, and that will eventually be their decision, but that is my position as the mayor.”

Jordan was referring to an item entitled “Information regarding properties for sale near the City Administration Building” appeared on the agenda during the May 17 City Council Agenda session.

Ted Belden, the owner of the East Square Plaza building on the Fayetteville square, had approached the city about potentially purchasing the building for the purpose of converting it to a new city hall.

Belden offered the first three floors and the basement of the building to the city for $4.5 million. Most of the fourth floor of the building, which has been converted into condominiums, is already privately owned.

Chief of Staff Don Marr said that the city was not looking to purchase a building for a new city hall, but that he felt obligated to listen to Belden’s offer. City finance director Paul Becker suggested a millage increase to cover the cost of the purchase should the council decide to pursue the purchase.

Flood damage

Mayor Jordan estimated that the recent flooding that occurred in April caused about $1.3 million in damages to public property in the city of Fayetteville.

Chief of staff Don Marr told attendees of the town hall meeting Tuesday night that the City of Fayetteville and Washington County officials will meet with personnel from FEMA on Wednesday, June 8 at 9 p.m. to discuss public assistance to repair damages to city property caused by the floods.

Transportation director Terry Gulley added that there are currently 140 to 160 open service requests with the transportation department, which he said would take current staff more than a year to complete.

Gulley said that he is currently working on a program to add workers and funding resources from other city programs in hopes to cut the time needed to complete the requests down to 90 days.

Trail and street project updates

City engineer Chris Brown listed some of the city street and trail construction projects that will be in the works soon.

A state highway construction project at the intersection of Martin Luther King Boulevard and I-540 is currently underway, and projects on Cato Springs Road, Crossover Road between Mission and Joyce, Huntsville Road (Hwy. 16), and Garland Avenue will begin in the next 12 to 14 months.

The roundabout project in front of Washington Regional Hospital on Millsap will be under construction beginning in three to four months, Brown said, and the flyover project over 71B will begin construction some time in 2012.

Brown also mentioned the Razorback Regional Greenway, the 36-mile trail running from Fayetteville north to Bella Vista, which should be complete in 2014. The project is funded with 15 million dollars of federal funds, along with some matching funds from the Walton Family Foundation.

Financial report

Chief Financial Officer Paul Becker said that sales taxes for the year are up on the year so far by about 3.5 percent compared to budget. Becker said that HMR taxes and building permits are also up this year.

“Part of that is due to the school expansion,” he said.

Emergency management

Fire Chief David Dayringer announced that a new city emergency operations plan is complete, and set to be distributed this week. The plan details roles and responsibilities for each city department in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

One citizen asked Dayringer about emergency alert procedures during a tornado threat, as well as whether or not a storm shelter was established in Fayetteville.

Dayringer said that weather radios and text-message alerts are used in Fayetteville instead of storm sirens. He also explained that pre-established emergency shelters are in place, but that no storm shelter has been designated in Fayetteville.

“Buildings these days are not made to withstand the force of an F-5 tornado,” he said. “What we ask people to do is shelter in place, and in the event that they are made homeless, we have pre-established with the Red Cross some shelters that would be designed and staffed.”

Dayringer also discussed the Fayetteville Fire Department’s recent deployment in Joplin to help victims of the F-5 tornado that devastated the area on May 22.

Parks & Rec

Connie Edmonston, the city’s parks director, announced that the Wilson Park Pool would open on Friday, June 10, and that the film “Despicable Me” would be shown as part of the annual Dive-In Movie Series.

Edmonston also discussed the Gulley Park Summer Concert Series that began on May 26.