Friday, October 13, 2017

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Cabot ‘a goldmine’

By CHRISTY HENDRICKSLeader staff writer

“Cabot has a gold mine of people right here under its nose,” Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said in response to an attendee at a town-hall meeting Tuesday night.

“The biggest secret of Cabot that nobody has told – you want to guess how many people are in a 13-mile radius of Cabot – which is our primary trade area? It’s 112,000 people. That’s a big base. We’ve not told the world about that. We’re doing that now.”

After receiving a lot of input about the city needing to provide more information about ongoing projects and the city’s future, the city has placed a lot of data on the homepage of the city’s website, hosted a breakfast with the mayor and held a town hall this week at the Veterans Park Community Center.

“This is basically your time to contribute your ideas, your complaints,” Cypert told the group. “Whatever you’d like to talk about, we’ll stay as long as you want to and we’ll talk about it.”

Business development, traffic and road conditions, storm shelters and sidewalks were some of the topics covered.

Cypert started the meeting with a quick review of items that can be found on the city’s website,, including current major projects, a transportation vision improvement plan, a Walkable Cabot plan and more.

A topic that kept coming up during the town hall was roads, and the city is set to invest $20 million to fix its street problems, according to the mayor.

“I’ve been a citizen of Cabot for two years. I spent 30 years in Bryant,” one resident said. “My concern is the ditches and the roads, they are absolutely pathetic. I drive a truck. I feel every bump. I spend most of my mileage in Cabot. I know where all the chuckholes are. I drive off center the majority of the time to keep from jarring my truck to death.

“I’ve heard the city say it’s growth. Bryant had the same type of growth. Bryant roads make Cabot roads look pathetic. They are in the process right now of building a major bypass. It’s going to make Bryant look very good. It’s going to make Cabot look very sad,” the resident said.

“You’re absolutely correct. I agree with you,” the mayor said. “We have plans both on the highway department side and the city street side to address that.”

Most of the major arterial roads in Cabot are state highways and fall under the responsibility of the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department, Cypert said.

“The transportation im-provement plan gives you in detail the plans for those roads. Yes, we have a city street problem in Cabot, primarily because Cabot grew so fast and nobody came up with a plan to reinvest in the streets. We now have that plan. It’s listed in the infrastructure and community development in detail.”

The street problems will be addressed over time and as funds come in, the mayor said. Currently, there are enough funds to cover the next five years of planned roadwork.

“Long term, we’re more than likely going to ask y’all to (renew) the sales and use tax again and get additional bond money to address the bulk of that problem,” he said.

Another attendee, after complimenting city code enforcement for a job well done, asked about putting in sidewalks on Kerr Station Road.

“It’s very heavily traveled,” he said. “I was wondering if it’s possible to maybe put a culvert in on one side and put in a sidewalk, at least down to the school. I think that would be a fine improvement.”

“Kerr Station, as far as traffic and the road itself, is on the long-term plan. Right now, the traffic volumes do not warrant any immediate action,” Cypert told the group.

“But it’s on the plan.” Cypert added that the city’s sidewalk plan priority is safe routes to school, safe routes to shopping for people who don’t have transportation and safe routes to the city amenities.

“The sports complex on Hwy. 321 made it more important to work on sidewalks for Kerr Station Road,” the mayor said. “A lot of money. A five-foot sidewalk costs $25 a foot to lay from start to finish. It’s pretty expensive to get sidewalks down. But it will be addressed at some point,” Cypert said.

The mayor assured another attendee that, while being considered for Hwy. 321 upgrades, there are no more roundabouts currently planned.

“Roundabouts are new technology,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like them. They work tremendously. They increase the flow.”

The mayor was also asked about a railroad overpass on Main Street to help avoid traffic jams when there is a train on the tracks.

“The railroad overpass would basically destroy downtown,” Cypert said. “We’re one of the few old cities left, railroad towns, that you could still ride through Cabot on the train and see a vibrant downtown with cars parked on the lot and people going in and out of businesses.

“Our neighbor down the road – Jacksonville — built an overpass. Look at their downtown. Not only that, but to go from two lanes for four lanes would probably close four to eight businesses because they wouldn’t have any parking. That is our primary business corridor. We’re trying to redevelop. If you notice, Main Street is very significantly redeveloping.”

To turn Main Street into four lanes and a turn lane from Lincoln Street to Hwy. 67/167 Exit 19 would cost around $50 million, the mayor said.

Rather than spend millions and risk businesses closing, the traffic plan will be a looping concept to include the north Cabot interchange currently being built. The city has 176 miles of city streets with approximately 70 to 75 that need to be overlaid or excavated and repaired then repaved.

See Wednesday’s Leader for more on the town hall meeting.