Shortly after Mayor Bob Freeman noted Van Buren has a lot of "good things going on," the city council Thursday approved an $11.5 million comprehensive parks and recreation master plan.
"We will get the Veterans’ Park in downtown done and chip away at the other parts of the city’s investment initiative," Freeman said in his annual state of the city address. "We need to get started, ask what is next and continue to make progress."
The mayor vowed to begin "moving real fast" on the Veterans’ Park. "This is a big deal and a doable park," he said.
Freeman touted the completion of the city’s fourth fire station and the Rena Road widening project. He said the new police station will be ready in March and the Senior Inn and safe room will be completed by summer.
"This is good stuff," Freeman said. "Unfortunately, none of it is cheap."
Alderman Alan Swaim commended the work of the city and its parks and recreation panel on putting together the parks and recreation master plan.
"You all did a marvelous job with this," Swaim said. "It’s just fantastic. Now if we can just come up with the funding."
Freeman noted the first step in getting the funding was the master plan, created over a year-long period with the help of public input.
"We have never been in this position before where we can go to the state and other organizations to request funding," the mayor said.
City Planner Joe Hurst said the rewarding part of developing the plan was the excitement from the public that participated.
Residents voiced interest in a swimming pool or aquatics center and additional opportunities for walking, bicycling, hiking and running. Other activities that received support include concerts, an adventure/ropes course, canoeing and kayaking and fitness programs.
The plan is separated into three phases based on priority, including immediate needs followed by short- and long-term goals.
Additional 2015 projects include continued citywide overlay and maintenance work, upgrades to the drainage areas on South 40th Street and upgrades to traffic signals. He said work was underway on the Pevehouse Bridge project and he would keep the council informed on that project.
At the meeting delayed from Monday by inclement weather, aldermen voted 6-0 to apply for state funds to overlay 28th Street from U.S. 64 to Kibler Road and from the railroad tracks south to Arkansas 59. Repaving the remaining sections of the road through the Industrial Park have been completed by the city.
The council authorized the mayor to enter into a contract with Hawkins-Weir Engineers Inc. for cost estimates on a Rena Road sidewalk project, South 40th Street drainage project, Drennen-Scott Historic Site sidewalk project and the 2015 street overlay project. Costs shall not exceed $50,000.
"We need to get started on this to meet the deadline for grants," Freeman said.
The council also:
• Approved the revised 2014 budget with $15,742,463.83 in revenues and $14,300,382.91 in expenditures.
• Adopted a Southside Revitalization Plan to be used as a framework to revitalize properties and develop vacant parcels.
• Renewed the city’s exclusive ambulance franchise with Southwest EMS.
• Voted to abandon an alley in the Grandview Addition.
• Approved upgrades to the security system at the public library. The library will pay $19,658.52 of the total cost of $30,189.42 which will include additional internal and external cameras, DVR, alarm button and installation by JE Systems Inc.