Alma city officials are looking to expand the senior center, adding a larger dining area and covered entrance.

Alma City Council members approved the necessary resolutions to apply for a grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to expand the Alma Senior Center at their meeting Thursday night.

Mayor John Ballentine said the city will apply for a Community Development Block Grant for about $240,000, with the construction costs being about $189,000.

"We’ve just outgrown that senior center," Ballentine said before the meeting, adding that the city will likely have to build a new center in the future.

Plans for the current expansion are not fully complete, but Ballentine said a wall at the south end of the center will be taken down to make room for a larger dining area that will be able to accomodate 35-40 more diners.

Windows to let in light and a porte-cochère - a covered driveway - will also be part of the expansion, he said.

Board members also approved a resolution that will allow the Boys and Girls Club of Alma to apply for a $150,000 General Improvement Fund Community Enhancement Grant from the Arkansas Department of Rural Services.

Sean Brister, vice president of the club board, told council members that if the club was awarded any of the grant money, it would likely only be a portion of the funds.

Money from the grant would go toward club repairs for items such as a broken dishwasher, and the construction and development of a youth soccer field and youth learning center, Brister said.

Board members voted in favor of an ordinance to reduce the speed limit on the portion of Spring Street south of Main Street in Alma.

Currently the street has no speed limit signs, which by law automatically makes it a 30 miles per hour zone.

Board members voted to reduce the speed limit to 20 mph at all times, because of the number of pedestrians often in the area going to and from the Alma Performing Arts Center.

Before the meeting, city officials, police officers and friends gathered for a reception to honor Alma Police Chief Russell White, who was selected by his peers to be named Arkansas Police Chief of the Year by the Arkansas Association of Police Chiefs at their 46th annual convention held Sept. 9-12 at the Embassy Suites of Northwest Arkansas.

White has been chief at Alma for 19 years, but was an officer with the Fort Smith Police Department before making the move to Alma, where he has served for 32 years.

"If it wasn’t for the mayor and the city and my coworkers, I wouldn’t have this opportunity," White said during the reception Thursday. "I want to thank you all for allowing me to do what I do."

Ballentine told White and those gathered that it was "a joy" working with him and he was proud of the work White has done as chief.