A street now being constructed in Alma will be named after one of the city’s former public servants once complete.
A portion of Arkansas 162 currently under construction that will connect Henry Street to Mountain Grove Road will be named Marsha Woolly Drive after the late Marsha Woolly, a long-time councilwoman and educator in Alma.
Alma City Council members passed the measure unanimously during their meeting Thursday night after some discussion on whether the street naming was taking place too quickly.
Alderman Rinda Baker defended the measure, which she put forward.
“Marsha did a lot of work for this council…she worked very hard to get that bypass going…and I think it’s the right thing to do to name it after her after everything she has done with the city and the council to protect our kids by getting this bypass built,” Baker said.
The new section of Arkansas 162 will stretch over train tracks that run not only through the center of the city but directly between school campuses. When complete, it will allow for safer passage of school buses that now must cross the tracks several times a day.
Alderman John Tribulak questioned whether the council was moving too quickly to name the street, without fully considering other naming possibilities. Alderman Maria Washburn agreed that the naming might be rushed.
“It’s nothing against the ordinance or Marsha Woolly - I have nothing but respect for her,” Washburn said. “But I feel we are not doing our due diligence on something that on any other topic we would do.”
Baker is fulfilling her final months on the city council, and said this is part of the reason she put forward the measure now - before she leaves office. She is running unopposed for the seat of Alma city attorney and will take up the position in January.
“I’m done putting it off,” Baker said.
Baker and Alderman Eddie Wakefield both said it had been discussed in a previous study session and there was no reason to delay the naming.
“I don’t think anyone, other than (Alma Public Works Director) Mark Yardley, worked harder on this than Marsha Woolly,” Wakefield said. “She was concerned about the city and the school district and, in her own words, she was concerned about her kids. I think the only appropriate thing to do is name it after her.”
A number of Woolly’s colleagues and friend attended the meeting to hear the measure passed, including Rosemary Blasingame and Jennifer Woods, both educators at Alma School District.
Arkansas 162’s new section will pass through Blasingame’s property, and she was in full support of the street being named after Woolly, calling the idea “wonderful.”
“Ever since they decided to put a highway through here, she and David (Woolly) and (Charles) Dyer worked on it,” Blasingame said. “They had meetings with the highway department to decide what route they were going to take.”
“School was her first love, and the city was her second,” Woods said of Woolly. “She just loved the city of Alma - she loved every person, every child. I miss her.”
After graduating with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education, Woolly worked her entire 36-year career as an educator in the Alma School District. She was a teacher, reading specialist, assistant principal and then principal until her retirement in 2008.
Woolly was an avid civic leader, serving as mayor of Alma in 1993, an original member of the Alma Advertising and Promotion Committee, on the Crawford County Senior Inn Board and a member of the Alma Friends of the Library.
She often served in leadership positions, and was a member of the Alma City Council for more than 20 years until her death from cancer in September 2012.
Also during the meeting Thursday, Malcolm Gray was appointed to the newly created position of city planner.
While city officials have been searching for about eight months for someone to fill the position, Gray, a life-long resident of Alma, only learned of the position a month ago, he said.
Yardley, who worked with Washburn and Alderman John Ware on a hiring committee for the position, said Gray was the perfect fit for the job.
“He has the necessary skills to perform the job, he has a passion for the City of Alma and the desire to see it grow,” Yardley said.
Gray was attracted to the position because of current improvement plans for the city, such as the downtown streetscaping. Construction for the streetscaping is scheduled to being next year.
“I saw the concept of the main street and was intrigued,” Gray said. “I’d really like to be a part of the improvement of Alma and make it a safe, viable city for the citizens of Alma.”
Gray has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Arkansas Tech University and a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Arkansas, he said.
Gray spent 10 years in municipal water and sewer construction as a contractor, 10 years as a math teacher at Alma High School and 13 years with Georgia Pacific as a reliability engineer.
Council members appropriated $44,042 to the new city planning department for Gray’s salary and benefits.
Other items approved by council members Thursday include an ordinance submitting millage rates, which remained the same at 3.5 mills for both personal and real property; a property purchase of $43,084; permission for the mayor to apply for a Trails for Life grant for city trails; a right of way property purchase for Arkansas 162 for $3,140.
Council members also heard from resident Sharon Lewis on concerns she said should be addressed by the council, such as enforcing and updating current city ordinances. Lewis’ concerns will be discussed in a council study session set for Nov. 7.