Last night’s City of Hope Board of Directors meeting, available for viewing below this story, featured a recess for a second public meeting considering potential projects in the city to raise the quality of life for residents. In previous meetings, City Manager J.R. Wilson said a sales tax is likely to fund these projects.
The public meeting took place during a recess declared after the first regular meeting of February was begun with the call to order, invocation, pledge of allegiance and review of minutes. Fewer speakers took the podium this time, and some of the speakers were repeat performers from the early January meeting. Again, the consensus seemed to be that multiple projects were needed, with the building of a new fire station being a first priority.
John Miller, of Red River Wrecker Service, asked the board to consider the area now occupied by the Tyson feed mill that is no longer in use as a place for a future aquatic park and/or splash pad. He said he believed placing the project(s) at this location would draw more users from both northern and southern parts of town than if they were placed at Northside Park. He asked that the board consider speaking to Tyson about donating the land there. Marcia White, from the Northside neighborhood, endorsed this idea.
White said that during the past month since the January 2nd public meeting, she “had never seen such weirdness” regarding whether a new project should be located in the Northside Park area. She hoped by proposing a neutral location, like the former Tyson mill, that the weirdness could be reduced.
Oscar Rodriguez, a fireman with HFD described what was needed in a new fire department location, specifically taller clearances for today’s fire and ladder trucks. He noted that the current main fire department location at 308 East Second is of 1939 vintage and simply lacked room. He said he was gratified to know Hope has purchased a new ladder truck since it would mean greater access for fire personnel to parts of structure fires, which is needed, he said, because fires to structures today burn faster and hotter.
Mayor Don Still replied that while Hope has been rated a Class 2 by fire department accreditors, showing “we are as high as we can do with what we’ve got.”
Wilson said the city already has a design for the new fire department and that he would meet with an engineer today about the project, which would likely cost about $1.5 million. City Director Mark Ross said the board was open to suggestions of locations for the building as well. The location needed to provide quick access to both sides of town in the event of a train crossing.
Mayor Still said from this meeting forward, time would be provided in each city board meeting for public comment on potential large projects in Hope.
In other business:
· The board accepted the low bid from Bobo & Bain Construction of $443.830.00 to perform the work of replacing chlorination facilities with ultra-violet disinfection facilities. This would bring Hope’s east wastewater treatment facility into compliance with state and national guidelines. The project is being financed by funds Hope received from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.
· The board accepted a low bid for a new Hydro Excavating Machine from Environmental Products Group owned by Trent Taylor and located in Streator, Illinois. The bid was $120,654.00, which the city would pay over a four-year period under a lease-to-own arrangement. The machine allows city workers to remove dirt from pipes without risking the cutting of important lines and pipes. Wilson said the city does that sort of work quite often.
· The board accepted the low bid for trash bags from Houston Poly, which was $44,400. That comes in below what the city budgeted for the bags.
· The board passed an ordinance waiving the bids process for the purchase of a good used dump truck to be used at the landfill. Such trucks are often sold a short time after they become available. The amount budgeted for this purchase would be $130,000 and the ordinance says the purchase would not exceed that amount. The board also provided permission to seek financing for the truck.
· The board approved the declaration of five sets of items at the Hope Municipal Airport to be surplus. Attempts would be made to sell 1. Chain link fencing materials. 2. HVAC units left from FEMA donations. 3. Precision approach path indicator lights. 4. Old downtown light globes. 5. Large fuel tank.
· The board approved the use of a new logo for the airport, which Airport Supervisor Darrel Allen said would be used on uniforms, event advertising, lobby decoration and signs. At the request of a couple directors, the logo will be adjusted to include the year the airport was established, 1942. The logo, which features a frontal view of the airport building and a World War II-era plane, was designed by a volunteer who is the spouse of an employee who maintains the airport’s information technology.
· The board approved the application by airport staff for a 90-10 grant from the Arkansas Division of Aeronautics to build a 55 feet by 50 feet hangar. The ten percent cost has been included in the city’s 2024 budget. Total cost for the project is estimated as $330,000 but Wilson said negotiations continue to try to lower the costs for the engineering of the project.
· The board passed a proclamation of a National Day of Racial Healing on a day that has already passed, January 16, 2024. Among other things, the proclamation includes the statements that “it is our duty to protect the children of this state and maintain communities in which they may all be given the opportunity to succeed” and “we must all work earnestly to create courageous and supportive environments that acknowledge the traumatic past, promote the healing of the wounds created by racial and ethnic bias, and build an equitable and just society so that all of Arkansas’ children can thrive.”
· The board approved a decision by the Hope Street Committee last Tuesday to provide street milling and overlay to 12 locations in 2024 at a total cost of $660,000, $130,000 of which would be shouldered by the Hope Advertising and Tourist Promotion Commission, which collects hospitality business taxes and maintains the parks. There was discussion between Wilson and Director Coffee about undertaking these projects on a two-year basis so they form larger projects that might be more attractive to contractors willing to do the work.
In the City Manager’s Report, J.R. Wilson said he hopes citizens of Hope will continue to submit questionnaires about what future projects Hope might undertake. He also said a steering committee would be meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to plan the efforts.
John Miller spoke in Citizens Requests to ask if a facility might be made available for use for the teaching of music lessons.