Monday, December 19, 2011

TOP STORY >> Group stresses importance of base

Special to the Leader

The Metroplan board of directors Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council and the 19th Airlift Wing’s candidacy for the Air Mobility Command Abilene Trophy.

The resolution, introduced by Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, cites the board’s enthusiastic support for the base to again receive the trophy.

The Abilene Trophy is presented to the Air Force Air Mobility Command base with the most community support.

The 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock is the current holder of that trophy for reasons including the community’s $5 million partnership with the base in the construction of the Joint Education Center opened a year ago outside the perimeter fence.

The resolution noted that “when a tornado damaged more than 100 on-base housing units and many buildings in April 2011, the LRAFB Community Council and surrounding communities donated significant time and money to help the base recover.”

When Metroplan was formed in 1955, it was partly to assist in the planning for the Little Rock Air Force Base.

Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert was on a slate of candidates elected as the board’s 2012 officers.
Cypert will be vice president. Others elected include Maumelle Mayor Mike Watson, president; Haskell Mayor Jeff Arey, secretary, and Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland, treasurer.

The board approved a $2.7 million 2012 budget, which include staff and planning, much of it from federal grants, according to Metroplan executive director Jim McKenzie.

“We have assumed a (worst)-case scenario regarding federal funding levels,” including a 30 percent reduction in planning funds, according to the staff summary.

“This occurs at the same time that our planning costs spike with the bulk of the work for the METRO 20-40 plan occurring in the next two years,” according to the summary.

Overhead expenses were budgeted 1.8 percent less than the 2011 budget, and a 3 percent average pay increase.

Metroplan will administer a $1.4 million sustainable communities grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help small communities understand and plan for sustainable, equitable, affordable housing, smart transportation choices, enhancing economic competitiveness and related needs.
Opportunities will be identified in the first year for focus studies. Then developers will be “brought into the 21st Century and business models will be improved.
All of this will add value to Metroplan’s long range transportation plan.
Area residents voted on several proposed bridge designs, resulting in a tie between a modernistic cable bridge designed by Bob Dahms and a more traditional design by Randy Murphy, based on the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary.
Three of the submitted designs, some quite elaborate, were from students in the Bryant High School architecture and design class.
The board also approved expenditure of a $1 million federal grant and $252,000 in local funds for a retrofit of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority maintenance building for compressed natural-gas storage and maintenance.