Tuesday, July 06, 2010

TOP STORY>>Jacksonville plans two major street projects

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville will spend slightly more than $1 million to revamp two major intersections.

Aldermen last week agreed to a trimmed-down redesign of the James-Main-Dupree downtown intersection and a roundabout to solve backup and speeding problems at Main Street and Harris Road.

At the regular council meeting, City Engineer Jay Whisker presented a $512,000 plan for the downtown intersection.

The new plan includes trees, greenery, new fluted street lights, brick-lined crosswalks, a pedestrian light, sidewalks, a rebuilt retaining wall and the removal of old wooden telephone poles.

“Some people may question why we are pouring money into this intersection,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

“It’s because a vibrant downtown is a key to bringing in new development. “We don’t want our downtown saying we’ve seen our better days,” the mayor said. “Just look at what North Little Rock has done with its Argenta area.”

The project originally went out for bid in March. “But the numbers came in too high and we had to reduce what we wanted,” explained Whisker.

Township Building of Little Rock was awarded the contract and should start work later this summer.

Whisker said residents should expect some delays and detours while the work is being done.

The city will use a $35,000 beautification grant it received to help buy and install additional streetlights for the project.

Whisker presented three ideas to solve the traffic problems at Harris and Main, especially when North Pulaski High School and Tolleson Elementary are in session. The costs ranged from $130,000 to $590,000.

The city has a bottleneck problem at this intersection especially when school is in session. “We have to safely keep traffic moving,” Whisker said.

The cheapest fix was just to put up a signal, but no turn lanes for school traffic. “Without the turn lanes, the signal is just a Band-Aid solution,” Whisker said.

Adding the turn lanes would take property away from at least four homeowners and raise the cost from $130,000 to $585,000.

Whisker recommended a roundabout, at a cost of between $570,000 and $590,000, depending on the size of the roundabout.

“It keeps the traffic flowing, minimizes the delays and is the greenest approach,” Whisker said. The council agreed.

Whisker said once work starts it will take about 180 days to complete the project.

In other council business:

Taria Dodge, with Waste Management, presented the city with $25,000 for scholarships. The company has been supporting scholarships through the city’s education foundation for more than 10 years and has contributed over $400,000.

Alderman Bob Stroud said, “This money goes to help students who would not normally qualify for a scholarship get a taste of college and hopefully continue with their education.” This year’s donation will help about three dozen young people.

The council approved a resolution supporting the city’s efforts to obtain 50/50 matching grants from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s outdoor grant program.

If the city receives a grant, it will be required to match the fund. The city’s parks and recreation department wants to use the grant to improve the entrance to Dupree Park now that the city has torn down the boarded up Manor House Apartments next to the park’s entrance.

In his monthly report to the council, Police Chief Gary Sipes said his department responded to 4,395 compliant calls in May, compared to 2,979 a year ago.

The police made 323 adult arrests and 44 juvenile arrests during the month.

Going through the chart of violent crimes, the city had no murders in May (and none for the year to date), five rapes or sexual assault cases, eight robberies, 10 felony assaults, 19 burglaries, 78 thefts, 12 vehicle thefts and no arson cases.

Fire Chief John Vanderhoof, in his monthly report, said his department responded to 116 rescue calls, 54 still alarms, 22 general alarms and had 236 ambulance runs during May.

Estimated fire loss was put at $500 for the month, while fire savings was estimated at $65,500.

In his monthly report to the council, Public Works Director Jim Oakley said the animal shelter received 126 dogs and 82 cats in May. The shelter returned 32 dogs and two cats to their owners, adopted out 43 dogs and 49 cats and euthanized 28 dogs and 72 cats.

There were three dog and two cat bites reported during May.

The dog attacks (all minor) included a Lab mix, a heeler and a Chihuahua. Both cats were stray kittens that individuals tried to catch.

The council approved the final plat for Base Meadows, Phase III which will allow the construction of 14 additional single-family homes in the subdivision off Hwy. 107 near the back gate of the air base.

Aldermen also approved rezoning property at the corner of Stanphill Road and Lemac Drive from mobile-home status to R-1A for single-family homes on small lots.

Finance director Paul Mushrush asked the council permission to close the library-construction account.

“All the bills have been paid for the new library and the account has a zero balance,” he explained. The council approved his request.

The council reappointed Fred Belote to the city’s sewer commission. His new term will expire in 2015.