Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> What's next after vote?

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Cabot voters last week app-roved about $28 million in bonds to be supported by an existing one-cent tax.
But when will the work begin? With a little more than three months left in the year, and the bond money unavailable until early December, area residents won’t likely see construction begin on most of the planned projects this year, but officials hope to see progress soon.

Included in the vote was $7 million to pay off the existing bonds for improvement to the city’s water system which are supported by the tax; $16.5 million for the sewer treatment plant and repairs to the collection system; $800,000 for the railroad overpass; $1.5 million to build the community center that came in over budget; $1.8 million for street improvements and $200,000 to build at one time an animal shelter that was supposed to be built in stages.

Last month, the Cabot City Council approved to allow the mayor to borrow up to $620,000 from area banks to pay for design work on the sewer treatment plant, which is by far the biggest project.
Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said this week that he is talking to bankers now and will likely borrow $360,000 to make monthly payments of $120,000 until the end of the year to pay for design work. The design work will cost almost $1.9 million.

The city has been under pressure from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and its counterpart at the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency, to build a new treatment plant to replace the old one which has seldom operated as it should. The city has been fined $10,000 and more is possible, but the mayor is hopeful continued efforts toward building the new plant will keep them at bay.
“If we keep on course, it really helps us with ADEQ and EPA,” he said.

The stalled community center that came in $1.5 million over budget when it was bid last year, will have to be bid again. The city has hired a construction manager to oversee the whole building process.
Bids on the animal shelter were opened last week and the low bid was about $100,000 more than the city has even with the $200,000 that will be included in the bond issue.

When completed, the shelter will have facilities for cats, something the city has never had before. It also will have a separate area for euthanizing animals that are not claimed or adopted and a room where area residents can take animals they are considering adopting to get to know them first. If necessary, the project could be scaled back to fit the available funds, the mayor said.

Alderman David Polantz, who for seven years has tried to get the council to open Elm Street and ease the traffic load on Highway 89 near city hall, said this week that he couldn’t be more pleased that opening the street is included in the $1.8 million for streets that voters approved last week.

“Opening Elm Street will let you go from 10th Street to Fred’s, without getting on 89,” Polantz said.
There’s good news and bad news for the $5 million railroad overpass in the Polk Street area that is to be paid for with federal funds, except for the $800,000 voters approved for inclusion in the extension of the one-cent sales tax.

The good news, according to Jim McKenzie, director of Metroplan, which plans for and distributes federal highway money, is that the Metroplan board is almost certain to approve funding the project in October. The bad news is that the hurricane destruction to the south will likely pull away most of the construction companies that would normally bid on such a project and material prices are likely to skyrocket making the project cost a lot more than the estimated $5 million.

The school district was the major supporter of the overpass, because it would keep buses off the railroad track. But the overpass is also the first step to connecting Hwy. 5 to Hwy. 38 with a third interchange on U.S 67/167.
McKenzie said he had already been in contact with Stumbaugh about the overpass project and assured him that it will be a priority.

“We definitely want to give some positive feedback to the citizens of Cabot because they’re willing to tax themselves to get this overpass,” he said. “Rest assured we will move the project along as soon as we know we’ve got the funds.”