In case you missed it: June 4 Town Hall Meeting

Jeremy Pate (right), the city’s development services director, discusses the Garland Avenue widening project.

Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s second Town Hall Meeting of the year was held Monday night at St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

About 25 people attended the event to hear various department directors discuss what’s been happening in the city over the past few months.

Matt Mihalevich – Trails Coordinator

Trails coordinator Matt Mihalevich provided an update on several ongoing and upcoming trails projects in the city including the 2.3-mile Meadow Valley Trail that connects Scull Creek Trail to Mt. Comfort Road. Mihalevich said if all goes according to plan, construction at Meadow Valley Trail will be completed in August.

Mihalevich said the planned traffic signal at the intersection of North Street and Scull Creek Trail will be up and running by June 13, and a second public input session to discuss possible crossings at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Frisco Trail extension is set for 4 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center.

Jeff Coles – Assistant Transportation Manager

Jeff Coles, the city’s assistant transportation manager, discussed some of his department’s ongoing projects including sidewalk construction on the south side of Prospect Street between Gregg and Frisco avenues which will help connect Wilson Park with Scull Creek Trail.

Sidewalks are also being constructed on the north side of Mission Boulevard, east of Highway 265, which will connect Starr Drive to Covington Park Boulevard.

Coles said other upcoming sidewalk projects this year include work on Center Street from College Avenue to the square, and College Avenue from Center to Mountain streets.

Jeremy Pate – Development Services Director

Sitting in for city engineer Chris Brown Monday night was Jeremy Pate, the city’s development services director. Pate gave a brief overview of some projects that are underway or will begin this year including widenings on Crossover Road, Garland Avenue, Huntsville Road and I-540.

“All corners of Fayetteville are being affected right now by road projects,” Pate said, “so be aware of that.”

Pate also mentioned the trio of projects designed to address traffic problems in north Fayetteville which include a modern roundabout at Futrall Drive and Northhills Boulevard, a “flyover” that will connect northbound College Avenue traffic to the westbound lanes of the Fulbright Expressway, and an extension and widening project on Van Asche Drive between North Gregg and Hall avenues.

Paul Becker – Finance Director

Finance director Paul Becker gave a brief update on the financial status of the city. Becker said that even after increasing city workers’ wages for the first time since 2009, an increase in city revenues from things like sales taxes and building permits is expected to account for about $10 million in reserves by the end of the year.

In other words, after keeping a 60-day reserve of about $5.7 million, the city will still have over $4 million in free reserves.

“That’s stronger than necessary, but we’re still in a volatile national economy,” said Becker.

He said since nobody really knows what will happen, the city will do best by preparing to go in whatever direction the economy goes.

David Jurgens – Utilities Director

David Jurgens, who also serves as project manager for the planned downtown parking deck, went over some questions he said have been vocalized recently including whether the city needs more downtown parking at all.

Jurgens said in 2011, there were 208 times in which all city-owned lots were completely full.

“I’ve personally experienced three times in the last two months where I went down to that area on weeknights and every gated lot was completely full,” he said. “So there is a need right now.”

Jurgens said a 2005 study commissioned by the city and the University of Arkansas identified the need for 1,200 additional parking spaces once planned developments and an expanded Walton Arts Center were complete.

“Without the Walton Arts Center expansion, the city would still need 800 parking spaces,” said Jurgens.

And while not all of the other planned projects came to pass, Jurgens noted two large-scale developments currently underway within two blocks of the center of the entertainment district – Sterling Frisco and Eco Downtown, both of which, however, are set to include their own parking decks.

Connie Edmonston – Parks & Recreation Director

Parks and Recreation director Connie Edmonston mentioned a handful of activities and programs now available for residents including a new 38-space community garden at Walker Park, a fall kickball league, the Gulley Park concert series and the recent opening of the Wilson Park pool.

Sue Butler – Life Safety Education Specialist

Sue Butler, the city’s safety eduction specialist, gave a fire safety presentation and discussed the Arkansas FireWise program.

Public Comment

Two residents – Jade Terminella and Scott Harper – spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and urged Mayor Jordan and city staff to commit more funding to help speed up the process of reducing the Fayetteville Animal Shelter’s euthanasia rate. Both are members of a local group called No-Kill Fayetteville that aims to reduce the euthanasia rate to 10 percent or less.

Shelter officials said recent efforts have reduced the rate from 35 percent in 2011 to about 23 percent this year, but both Terminella and Harper said they want to see faster progress.

Harper suggested the city add a checkbox to monthly utility bills that would allow residents the option of donating $1 to the no-kill program.

Both Jordan and the city’s community services director Yolanda Fields said they’ll consider all suggestions, and noted that they expect the rate to drop even further after a new Washington County animal shelter is opened later this year.