Saturday, October 02, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
Sherwood choked on a gnat at its city council meeting Monday night.
The council, which didn’t bat much of an eye almost two years ago, spending $5.5 million to buy a golf course, basically said no to the city engineer’s request for $33,000 for a flood study before she makes any improvements to stop, slow or redirect the flooding from Woodruff Creek affecting homes on and around Powell Drive, Claremont Avenue, Pinto Drive and Marlar Drive.
Maybe it was because the city’s budget this year was saved by an influx of about $500,000 from North Little Rock or maybe because it was just announced that Sherwood’s retirement fund for its employees was going to be at least $4.6 million short of meeting its demands, after years of mismanagement that caused the council suddenly to become “Scrooge” and say, “Humbug!” to the engineer.
The time the council spent discussing and debating the $33,000 was equal, if not longer, to the time the council spent on the multi-million dollar pension problem.
Not only did the council put the study on hold, but by doing so, eight non-engineers on the council questioned City Engineer’s Ellen Norvell’s credentials, knowledge and recommendation.
True, the first reading of the ordinance that would have allowed the study was approved, but there were enough no votes to keep it from coming up for a second or third reading — and three approved readings are required for the ordinance to become law and the study to go forward.
By reading it just once – the issue will be back on the agenda for the November council meeting – all the council did was say to the people of the problem area that $33,000 is more important than their well-being. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain in the meantime.
Although he profits from the name, Mark Martin, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, is not the world-class stock-car driver from Batesville. That Mark Martin is not running for office. But the political Mark Martin stays just as much in the fast lane as the racer.
Martin has been questioning the ethics of his Democratic opponent, Pat O’Brien, and has joined his party leader in attacking the integrity of state constitutional officers, who happen to be Democrats. He criticized O’Brien, the Pulaski County clerk, the other day for 80 spoiled ballots that were mailed to people in Jacksonville who had applied for absentee ballots. The error belonged to the Pulaski County Election Commission, not O’Brien’s office, but O’Brien corrected it and everyone got the right ballots.
This week, the newspapers, blogs and Mr. O’Brien told us a little bit about this Mark Martin who expects to be the secretary of state. Most of us knew nothing about him except that he was a state representative from Prairie Grove. We know a lot more today.
Martin has been a quiet and ineffective lawmaker, but he has been anything but ineffective in getting into the taxpayers’ pockets. Last year, he pocketed $56,000 in expense claims to the state. A legislator’s salary is only $15,869 a year, but legislators are in session only about 60 days every other year. They get an extra allowance for every day that they attend a legislative session or a committee meeting in Little Rock and a generous allowance for travel and expenses on the road and for expenses they incur back home. For most legislators, the Little Rock legislative business takes a few days a year. But Martin checks in at the Capitol for committee meetings even when he is not a member of the committee that is meeting and claims his per diem and expenses for the day. Not many years ago, before the advent of term limits, legislators collected a salary of $1,200 a year plus $20 a day per diem. Lawmaking has recently become a very expensive business for the taxpayers, although, to be fair, not many lawmakers abuse the system like Mark Martin does.
A blogger, a Democrat assuredly, got interested in Martin’s business at Prairie Grove since he seemed to have nothing to do but hang out at Little Rock for legislative interim-committee meetings. It turns out that the taxpayers are paying Martin’s business, whatever it is, to rent office space to him for his grueling legislative work and his campaign. When a newspaper called Martin to learn the address of his putative business, he couldn’t remember it. But the blogger tracked it down.
His business, M3 Engineering, has an office in a building owned by a plumbing company on Wagon Wheel Road in Springdale. That’s also listed as his legislative office, so the taxpayers pay the rent for the office. The Springdale city clerk’s office said Martin had never obtained a privilege license to do business in the city as M3 Engineering, nor had he paid the little city privilege tax.
When you start hurling charges that your opponent is unethical or a tax cheat, as several Republicans have done this year, you need to pick up around your own house. Poor Jim Keet learned that this summer. The free-wheeling Mark Martin — the politician, not the racer — now knows it, too.
By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer
The Cabot Chamber of Commerce’s state Highway Commission appreciation banquet on Tuesday at First Baptist Church was an occasion to reflect on traffic improvement with the teamwork of city, county and state officials.
Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams gave an update on the north interchange. He received word from Rep. Marion Berry’s office that Congress could vote on funding for the interchange, possibly by November.
Money was allocated for the project last year but went to road projects in Clay County. If the legislature votes on it, $1.1 million will be used for right-of-way purchases and engineering for the new interchange. The state Highway Department has signed an order to start the process on the interchange.
The mayor presented a video on traffic-improvement projects in the city over the past year.
One project was adding a right-turn lane at the intersection of Hwy. 321 and Kerr Station Road. During a 45-minute span, morning traffic could not clear the intersection. Vehicles would back up north on Kerr Station to the Comfort Estates subdivision.
About $30,000 was spent on the road work. The mayor said it was an important small project that made traffic flow better.
Another road project was rerouting the Hwy. 67/167 southbound exit 16 off-ramp from Hwy. 5 to Rockwood Road. Construction took 60 days.
“It was one of the most dangerous intersections in Lonoke County and in Arkansas. Now it is one of the safest. It freed the intersection up,” the mayor said.
A third project discussed was the extension of Willie Ray Drive to Ernie Davis Drive in Austin. Williams said it was a team effort with Judge Charlie Troutman and Lonoke County. He said the road was important for future development.
The mayor then focused the attention to improvements along Hwy. 5. The traffic signals at Hwy. 5 and Hwy. 89 intersection have reduced fatalities.
A turning lane was built on Hwy. 5 at Mountain Springs Road for traffic going to the new elementary school. Williams said the school district was committed to making it happen. The district paid for almost all of the costs for the additional lane.
Lastly, Williams showed the Hwy. 5 and Greystone Boulevard intersection. A pedestrian cross walk and pedestrian signal light were installed to allow youngsters to cross the highway safely.
The mayor said many people made the projects happen including State Senator Bobby Glover and members of the State Highway Commission and Department.
Glover said much has been accomplished in the county with the public schools and the cooperation with municipal officials, county officials and state legislators. He said it wasn’t one individual, but all working together. For there to be economic development, there needs to be a highway program for the state.
The evening turned to recognizing members of the state Highway Department and the State Highway Commission.
Williams proclaimed this past Tuesday as Bill Harrod Day in the city. It was also his 65th birthday. Harrod retired on Monday from the State Highway Department after a 46-and-half-year career. He began working for the department as a surveyor. Since 2005 he’s been a traffic services specialist.
Harrod worked with the city on many projects.
“The relationship could not have been better,” the mayor said.
Harrod worked projects in the Cabot area including the Hwy. 38 and Lincoln Street railroad overpass and he helped complete the layout of South Rockwood Road.
Glover presented framed Senate citations and Capitol citations to both State Highway Commission Chairman Carl Rosenbaum and state Highway and Transportation Director Dan Flowers.
Cabot Chamber of Commerce president Amy Ross presented Rosenbaum with a plaque in recognition of his dedication and commitment to Cabot and the state during his 10 years as state Highway Chairman. Rosenbaum’s term expires in January 2011.