Members of the Van Buren City Council voted Monday night to annex 21 acres along Northridge Drive East into the city limits.
The land at 505 Northridge Drive is owned by the Van Buren School District and will house a VBSD elementary school.
Mayor Bob Freeman said the annexation was approved by the planning commission on July 3. The acreage will be zoned G-1 (government and public use).
Construction has begun on the elementary school north of Interstate 40, according to Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat.
The 60,000-square-foot school will house about 450 students and include more parking than other schools in the district.
Classrooms will be located on both the first and second floors and will be on one end of the building, with offices, cafeteria and gymnasium on the other end, according to Michael LeJong of MAHG Architecture.
The new school is estimated to cost about $12 million. The Arkansas Facilities Division approved $5.3 million in state funding to help construct VBSD’s seventh elementary school.
As part of the state requirements, the district has 18 months to enter into a contract for construction and 48 months to complete the school.
Jeffcoat said previously the district hopes to have students in the classrooms by August 2019. Construction of the yet-unnamed school is expected to take 12-14 months.
Council members also voted 6-0 to enter into an interlocal agreement for the Sebastian County Five West Crisis Stabilization Unit.
The agreement, which was drafted by Sebastian County Judge David Hudson and approved by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, would address how stakeholders in the CSU’s six-county catchment area would cost-share any potential overage of a $1.6 million state grant given to the facility and reimbursement funds. CSU, which opened in March, was projected to be funded except for an estimated $75,463 difference.
“I want to thank Judge Hudson for his leadership in getting this up and running,” Freeman told the council. “I also appreciate Police Chief Jamie Hammond’s involvement in making this happen.”
Officials established CSU, which opened in March at The Guidance Center, in Fort Smith to divert qualifying people in Sebastian, Crawford, Franklin, Logan, Scott and Polk counties from jail to treatment. If the agreement passes, counties and cities that do not ratify it could not participate in its use, according to a memo from Hudson to county and city officials in the catchment area.
Hammond said often the police department’s only recourse when investigating an incident involving a possible mentally ill person was to arrest them and put them in jail.
“Now, we have a place to seek help at a low cost,” Hammond said. “It is a win/win situation that was a long time coming.”
If the agreement passes, all stakeholders of CSU would cost-share any of the overage amount. The cost-sharing would be based on the $350 estimated treatment cost per day per patient and the projected unreimbursed amount averaged among all patients and clients, the memo states.
The agreement would also include the agreement of county and city officials to pay $5 daily for services provided to CSU clients, the memo states.
“The whole intent of this $5 a day is we don’t know what the difference is going to be,” Hudson said. “Pulaski County is setting theirs at $50 a day. I want it to be encouraging to participate.”
The Crawford County Quorum Court signed the interlocal agreement on July 16 and Sebastian County Quorum Court voted on it on July 17.
Fort Smith was to vote on the agreement Tuesday night.