City & County

City board talks Pine Street, sewer repairs in lengthy meeting; no action following executive session

By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

The Arkadelphia Board of Directors held a lengthy meeting Tuesday at Town Hall, discussing a range of issues from a new airport terminal to repairs to a sewer line. An hour-long executive session also took place, with no action taken.

Pine Street widening
Directors approved a formal letter from the city to the Arkansas Department of Transportation on behalf of a few residents living on a section of Pine Street that will be widened. City Manager Gary Brinkley referenced the area, which includes about seven homes and the Church of Christ between 10th and 12th streets, saying he has been in talks with ArDOT on providing “some relief” for the right-of-way. 

With the letter, ArDOT will consider reducing its right-of-way by 1 foot and reduce the electrical utilities space for a total distance of 3 feet.

Assistant Mayor Roland Gosey asked if the residents were happy with this solution. Brinkley responded, “They’re happy we found a path to give them some relief. They’re not happy with the results, but at this point whatever relief we can assist them with they’re grateful for.”

Ward 5 Director Jason Jones said he had talked with several of the residents whose properties it will affect. “I think they’re very happy the city’s tried to step in and help them in this situation,” he said, “because I think they felt pretty helpless. It’s not that we have a lot of say-so with ArDOT or Entergy … But we’ve done just about all we can to give them back some of their space.”

Opioid settlement
Directors also approved a letter of support to the Arkansas Municipal League to join a nationwide class action lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of opioids. Brinkley explained that the state is part of a “huge package settlement” of $26 billion over 18 years. 

While the City of Arkadelphia wouldn’t receive monetary gains from the settlement, it would be able to provide treatment to citizens affected by opioid addiction as well as prevention to help others avoid addiction.

Ward 1 Director Taylor Chaney questioned what the settlement entailed for the city. “I don’t see what we’re getting,” said Chaney, a lawyer. Brinkley explained that Arkadelphia is among some 300 other cities signing the support letter, and municipalities who fail to sign will get deductions from the overall sum allotted to cities. 

Mayor Scott Byrd, a dentist, abstained from voting. He said taking a stance “just puts me in a little big of an awkward spot to vote on it or sign it.”

New airport terminal; planning commission appointment
The city was the recipient of a $400,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics for the addition of a new terminal at Dexter B. Florence Memorial Field. Asked by Byrd what the city’s match would be, Brinkley said he didn’t have those figures.

Matt Johnson was appointed to a vacant position on the planning commission and board of zoning adjustments.

Sewer project repairs
There was much discussion about the leading and sole bidder of a $46,300 sewer line repair between the southwest pump station and the sewer ponds. Brinkley called it a “nuisance” project that has been under way for years, but the utilities department has gotten to the underground gas lines and can go no further.

The city requested bids from three companies, and two of those backed out because of “technical difficulties.” The Glenwood-based Jenkins Gravel and Construction placed a bid of $46,300. Brinkley fielded several questions from directors.

Chaney and Ward 3 director Keith Crews asked how the repair would affect the city’s budget. Brinkley explained it would come from undesignated funds within the water and sewer budget.

There were also questions about the cost. Brinkley noted that a bulk of the overall cost — $29,700 — would cover boring 8 feet below the surface to bypass the pipeline; the rest covers materials and could fluctuate.

Asked about Jenkins’ qualifications for the job, utilities manager David Green said he feels “very comfortable” with Jenkins as the city has hired him for projects in the past. He also pointed out that the gas company would be on site at all times during the weeklong project in the event something does go wrong.

Jones said he wasn’t comfortable taking a bid from one company. He asked if there was anything preventing the city from putting the project on hold until more bids were offered. Brinkley said it is a “small project” and that most companies are “flush with work and no one is interested in doing jobs like this.” He added he didn’t anticipate other bids coming in at a lower cost. “It’s not optimal,” Brinkley said, “but it’s a tough market right now.”

Crews took issue with amount of insurance the company carries, which is the state minimum of $300,000. He asked about the potential liability to the city if a gas line were to rupture. Brinkley began to respond, “He’s a contractor …” when Crews interrupted: “No, I understand. The question is who pays that cost beyond the $300,000?” Chaney intervened, saying the gas company would be supervising the project and would be responsible. “That’s how I look at it,” Chaney said. Crews laughed. “If you believe that,” Crews said. “I’m just saying if we lost a lot of money, everyone wants. That’s how people like you stay in business.”

Chaney said having the gas company there supervising made him feel more comfortable about the project.

With no further discussion, the board unanimously approved the amendment to the 2021 sewer budget.

Executive session; public forum
Directors spent just little over an hour Tuesday in executive session for its annual city manager evaluation, then reconvened in public to announce no action was decided during their discussion behind closed doors.

Following the city manager’s report and routine business, directors adjourned the meeting and opened a public forum. They heard a plea from Arthur L. Hunt Jr. Speaking on behalf of resident Doug Nelson, Hunt requested the board reconsider the naming of Pine Street in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.