By JOE MAY | The Southern Standard
Members of the Arkadelphia Board of Directors on Tuesday evening expressed frustration that fundraising for the new MLK Park is still far behind schedule.
The city is applying for an outdoor grant from the state that would pay $250,000 in matching funds for the playground portion of the park.
At this point, the board adjourned into a public hearing to take questions from those in attendance concerning what they’d like to see at the park. Among the suggestions were:
• Make the equipment accessible for handicapped children. City Manager Gary Brinkley said not all of the equipment would be handicapped-approved, but there would be many items usable for disabled children.
• Have equipment designed for children under 3.
A citizen asked how the planned widening of Pine Street will affect the parking along that street, to which Brinkley replied that it would still be usable.
Another citizen asked how fundraising was going for the park, to which Assistant Mayor Roland Gosey, who chairs the MLK Park committee, replied, “It’s not going well.” Gosey lamented that, after three years, the park has still not been funded. Director Taylor Chaney agreed, suggesting that citizens follow his lead in “trying to give a little bit every month.”
Brinkley said the price tag for the park three years ago was $2.4 million, a number that the city has come nowhere near obtaining.
Gosey said that in accepting the grant, the city would be obligated to finish the playground within a certain length of time, but the bulk of the park would remain unfinished, which is against the stated desires of the park committee.
“By the time we get the whole park completed, what repairs will be needed for Phase One?” he asked.
Director Jason Jones said he felt the grant would be a good start for fundraising efforts.
Mayor Scott Byrd told Gosey that he understands his concerns “but I’d hate to miss the opportunity. We have a very good chance to get this grant.”
“It will get us some traction,” Crews commented, adding, “We need to move forward on this. If we put a dog park in town, there’s going to be a war. We can put a dog park in, but we can’t put one in for Martin Luther King?”
Noting that three years was a long time to not have the park completed, Crews noted that with 10,000 residents, if citizens could donate $200, it would raise the remaining portion.
“People need to be passionate about this,” he said. “It is pathetic how much money has not been raised.”
He suggested that the city save remaining budget funds at the end of each year to raise money, to which Brinkley replied, “That’s how we got the $250,000 we have now.”
Jones and Chaney then voted to pass a resolution to apply for the funds with only Gosey dissenting.
The board then heard from Code Enforcement Officer Don Cleek, who said that in the last month he has made 81 contacts regarding code violations, many of which have been resolved. The city is mowing 10 properties for derelict owners, charging them $60 each time, he said.
In other business, Cleek said a new owner on Logan Street is in the process of cleaning up several properties between 15th and 18th streets. He said he is working with the state Department of Corrections to get several state prisoners to help clean up some creek banks in the city. In addition, he has labeled 11 more properties for code violations.
Two condemnations — 121 Clinton St. and 1516 Logan St. — are under way, Cleek said, adding two others are under consideration.
In response to a question, Building Department Manager DeAnna Graves said Henderson State University is preparing to take action on their unsightly properties, including a carport at 12th and Wilson streets that is in danger of falling.
Brinkley said the city needs to “double down” on landowners who fail to mow the 2 feet between the sidewalk and curb in front of their homes.
“I can’t fathom why” a business or resident doesn’t want to mow the two feet in front of their property,” he said. “It may not be your property, but it is your responsibility.”
After Brinkley noted that the city’s newly codified zoning and subdivision ordinances were supposed to be coming out in September, Crews asked if a provision requiring citizens to tend to the 2 feet in front of the property would be included.
“If we don’t have it now, it dad-gum sure will be in there,” Brinkley declared.