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Hope City Board meeting settles location of potential splash pad, renews urban hunting ordinance

Hope’s City Board of Directors in their regular meeting Tuesday made a start toward the installation of a splash pad in town. It decided when it applies for grant funding from the state to specify that the splash pad, should grant money be provided, will be located in Northside Park.

It also discussed its continued permitting of deer hunting by bow and arrow, declared a vintage piece of equipment available for sale, went into executive session, then heard City Manager Catherine Cook’s report.

After the call to order, the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, the board approved the minutes of the July 19 meeting.

By this point, a larger audience than usually comes to these meetings had found seats. Most were present for the consideration of the splash pad, $250,000 of which would be paid for from state funds, the rest by the city. After the board members eliminated the Fair Park Soccer Field area as a choice based on the inconvenience of its location for pedestrians, the decision was between a Sixth Street site and the North Side Park site.

The Northside site would have an added cost of $43,000 in addition to the price of the splash pad itself. The Sixth Street would require $125,650 in additional costs, because of the need to build bathrooms, run water and sewer lines, add fencing, create curbs and the additional labor required.

Before opening the meeting up to citizen feedback, Mayor Don Still said it should be understood at what stage the splash pad project is. “This is just the first step in trying to get a grant to proceed in the construction of this. We’re a long way from actually putting a shovel in the ground. This is just the first step in getting the money together and trying to get this grant, which we’ve been pretty good at getting the grants, but it goes before a board in Little Rock and they look at all the grant [applications] being turned in from all over the state. And then they pick who can get the money.”

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Four citizens spoke in favor of the Northside location.

First was Mershell Thomas. She told the board that it was obvious from a cost point of view that the choice to place the splash pad in Northside was best. “It has adequate parking, a pre-existing pavilion [and] bathrooms,” she explained. “Take into consideration those children that live in Hope who will lose that you can take a walk with a parent down to that splash pad and enjoy an evening that they may not be able to experience from the pavilion or The Hub that’s already up here.”

Then Marcia White came to the podium. She said she agreed with Thomas and that the board should also consider the visibility of the Northside Park to those travelling on I-30 and taking a break in Hope. “I think it would be a draw, for somebody to stay in Hope instead of coming through Hope.”

Next, Philip Shaw, a resident in the Northside, reminded the board and attendees of a petition his father and others brought to the city in favor of keeping Northside’s swimming pool open but it was unsuccessful. He said the Northside Park was for all, not just for those living in the neighborhood. He also assured the board that the splash pad would be for small children and that he and others would ensure their safety. He also acknowledged the difficulty of children from Northside being so distant from the Fair Park pool.

Pastor Bennie Williams then spoke, saying, “The Northside Park is no longer a black park. Children don’t think like we do. And I’m glad that they don’t. Because now they have the time to develop, and to interact with all nationalities of people. That’s how God intended for us to be in the first place. And I don’t know if you’ve visited Northside Park lately. But there’s a mixture of children there. It’s not just black kids going to the Northside anymore.  There are white kids. There are Hispanic kids. And there are also some adults. And we thank God for that, too. And at some point in time, or other, we have got to come together.”

On the matter of cost, Williams made a comparison. “Budget? Prescott has it. And I think Prescott is a third the size Hope is,” he said. “And I really don’t see why the money should be such a big problem.” In summary, Williams said he was in agreement with locating the splash pad at Northside Park. “We need it, for all of us, not for some of us to enjoy, but for all of us to enjoy, and just sit back and enjoy just being interactive with human beings made and created in the image and likeness of God.”

The city board then voted unanimously in favor of Director Mark Ross’ motion making Northside Park the preferred site on the application to the state for the grant that would finance a maximum of $250,000 for the splash pad project, and unanimously again on the resolution to apply to the state for the grant.

On the matter of urban bow hunting, Catherine Cook presented the question of whether the board wanted to continue to allow it under the same set of rules as it has been allowed over the past year, which she explained. Director Trevor Coffee made the motion to continue to allow urban bow hunting according to the ordinance passed to regulate it. It carried unanimously.

Director Ross commented that he had seen evidence of overpopulation of deer, especially along Highway 67 east of the city and that there was need for hunters to make their contribution to safe travels.

A Hewlett-Packard T-1100 plotter, purchased 14 years ago was agreed by the board at the Cook’s request to be declared surplus, authorizing sale or salvage of the item.

The board went into executive session for about 20 minutes on a personnel matter. When the board returned to the meeting room, Mayor Still said no action had been taken.

The City Manager then made her report. She is working with the city engineer to trim the Sixth Street Project because of the bid for the work coming in higher than was projected. She said the city would reapply for more funds in the spring of next year to cover the shortfall.  She reported she had assisted in sorting out the traffic flow around Hope Academy of Public Service for parents dropping off and picking up students. She also praised those participating in the city’s Clean-Up Day the Saturday before last.

During Citizens Requests, Marcia White thanked the board for its decision to choose Northside Park for the possible splash pad. “Hats off,” she said. “I’m proud of being in this place.” She added that she was gratified by the attendance of Hope’s National Night Out observance in Fair Park.

Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson reported that attendance there had included 400 children.

Director Steve Montgomery asked that the board consider making room in the city budget for compensation of city directors at about one or two hundred dollars a month. Montgomery said he wanted to motivate people to get more involved in city government and had been told by many would-be leaders that the lack of compensation was an obstacle. Mayor Still asked that the matter be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.

Director Ross asked about a decrepit billboard on I-30. Cook said the billboard was regulated by the state rather than the city, but that she would contact those concerned over the eyesore.

Chief Wilson was asked whether the burn ban for the county was still in place. He answered that it was.

At this the vote to adjourn was called and unanimously agreed to.

For the full details of the meeting see the video below.

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