Alma City Council members approved measures to change access to a section of a city street during their regular meeting Thursday night.
Council members approved a belated measure modifying a portion of Mulberry Street near Alma High School from two-way to one-way. The passage of the measure was meant to remedy the mistake made by the city in modifying the street without council approval.
City crews restriped the street as one-way last week in an effort to complete the work before the first day of school Aug. 14. Public Works Director Mark Yardley gave the go ahead on the street change.
Alma Mayor Keith Greene brought the discrepancy to Yardley’s attention, Yardley said.
“I 100 percent agreed that was a mistake on my part,” Yardley.
In a letter to council members, Yardley explains that Alma School District Superintendent David Woolly and assistant superintendent Mike McSpadden approached the city about a change for student pickup and dropoff to Spring Street to reduce traffic on Main Street.
After some debate and budget reviews, it was determined that the best way to help with the traffic flow and operate within the city’s budget would be to change West Mulberry Street to one-way, the letter states.
Woolly and McSpadden requested the road work be completed prior to school opening on Monday. Road crews worked quickly, as “time was of the essence,” Yardley wrote.
“Unfortunately, I failed to consider that I had not presented to the city council the idea of changing Mulberry to a one-way designation,” Yardley wrote.
Yardley explains in the letter that his mistake was “simply an oversight in the heat of the moment,” and not meant to be disrespectful to the council. He apologized, promising “greater consideration” to protocol in the future.
Woolly spoke at the meeting Thursday night, explaining the importance of making the street change before the opening of school.
After the Arkansas 162 expansion opened a few weeks ago, Alma school administrators “started realizing what the traffic situation and traffic patterns were going to look like in this part of town,” Woolly said.
“(We) realized there were a couple of things that probably were going to be very helpful if we could change and especially get done before the first day of school,” Woolly said.
One of those things was the change to Mulberry Street, which Woolly said has “turned out to be very valuable and very important.”
“I’m just very thankful that we have the relationship that we have with the city and get the things done that need to be done in a timely manner and that we can work so well together,” Woolly said.
Council member Jerry Martin asked Woolly about the importance of making the change of street use before the school year starts.
“Those kinds of things, if you do after school starts, it really gets difficult for everybody to understand what’s happening,” Woolly said. “
Woolly extolled the council members and department heads, particularly Yardley and Police Chief Russell White, who helped with the street decisions, for their quick work.
“We couldn’t have a better working relationship,” Woolly said. “That’s extremely important to all of us.”
Also during the meeting, council members approved a measure to forgive rent for the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce on the train caboose used as the chamber office for 2017.
According to the measure, the chamber’s rent is being forgiven in exchange for services the chamber is providing to the city, including marketing, event planning and scheduling vendors for the farmer’s market.
Alma Area Chamber of Commerce Director Bryan Huff is excited for the council’s decision, he said.
“The Chamber is very excited that the city council is seeing the work we’re doing to help the city on the fronts of economic development and tourism,” Huff said.
Huff added that relief from the rent allows the chamber to “invest those funds in things we think will better benefit the city.”
Board members voted to proceed with the demolition of three buildings downtown. The costs to repair and renovate the buildings is beyond what the city can pay for, and no one has come forward who is willing to renovate with their own dollars.
City officials hope to salvage bricks from the buildings for later use. Demolition is expected to being within the next several weeks.
Council members approved the issuance of the $5.1 million sales and use tax bond approved by Alma voters in a June 13 special election. Once issued, the city will receive about $4.775 million to its construction fund for street improvements.
Competitive bidding to remove and replace about 4,500 square feet of concrete medians at the intersection of U.S. 71 and Interstate 40 was waived by the city council in order to meet a Sept. 4 deadline for removal set by the Arkansas Department of Transportation.
Steve Bean Construction was awarded a $27,000 contract to repair and replace the medians.
Council members also approved the de-annexation of property deemed not suitable for urban development at the request of the owners, and granted the mayor approval to apply for an Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism matching grant.