Hope Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commissioners vote to get Kelly Field lights project going, consider future parks projects, see an Elvis photo

Calvary Baptist Church Pastor and local historian Gary Johnson presents a framed picture at the Hope Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission meeting Tuesday evening.

The Hope Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission, in its Tuesday evening meeting at the Fair Park Community Center, voted to cover the expenses for replacing the lighting in Kelly Field, replace an interior air conditioning unit at the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council offices, discussed future projects to draw people into the city and its parks and got a look at a framed print of Elvis Presley performing in what is now the Klipsch Auditorium in 1955. It also effectively made Train/Trade Day a city event for insurance purposes.

After the meeting was called to order, minutes from February’s meeting approved, and February expenses examined, the commission got an update on overdue payments for permits to do business in the city. 

At this point, City Manager J.R. Wilson explained the results of an inquiry launched as a result of a request made by the Hope Downtown Network to combine Train Day and Trade Day, both downtown events held in early May. This would allow the Downtown Network to save money paying an insurance premium for liability at the event and allow the City of Hope’s policy to cover the event. Wilson reported that a consultation with City Attorney Randal Wright it was found the combining could be legally done.

Mayor Don Still, also a commissioner, made the motion to approve this. Commissioner Charlton Luker seconded. The motion was approved by unanimous voice vote.

Next on the agenda was consideration of local restaurant owner Juan Rivera’s continued service on the commission. At the recommendation of Mayor Still, the commission accepted Rivera’s request to serve another four-year term. The Hope City Board would need to approve the decision at its next meeting.

On the next item, Parks Superintendent Summer Powell reported that the lowest bid received for the replacement of lighting at Kelly Field from Pilgreen Electric was over the $430,000 that had been budgeted for the project. The Commission voted to fund the $29,900 needed to get the project underway.

During a discussion which the agenda entitled “Long Term Park Plans,” Wilson appeared again to explain, as he did in last week’s Hope City Board meeting, that he had spoken to the mayor of Sherwood, Mary Jo Heye-Townsell, about how that city funded big parks projects. Essentially, Sherwood agreed to use a percentage of its Advertising and Promotion taxes to pledge to pay off bonds issued by the city or to pay back loans from banks. 

The commissioners then made suggestions of projects that could be financed in this way. The financing of a splash pad at Northside Park, putting in turf at Fair Park’s baseball/softball fields, creating bicycle paths there, replacing or upgrading the Fair Park pool were among the projects mentioned during the talk. Plans were made to set up meetings to receive public input for future projects.

Superintendent Powell then reported the internal air conditioning unit at the Southwest Arkansas Arts Council had gone out recently and that the cost to replace the unit would be $4,100. The Commission voted in favor of replacing the unit.

During Citizens Request, Gary Johnson, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church and also a formidable local historian showed the Commissioners and attendees a framed print of Elvis Presley performing onstage in what is now the Klipsch Auditorium in 1955, a year before his breakthrough year and his pivotal appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Johnson said he had obtained the print from Ima Lee Smith, who as a teenager took the photo. The print and frame, Johnson said, is a donation from him to the city. It will be placed in City Hall.