Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

TOP STORY >> Officials disagree on fixing bridges

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County’s willingness to replace bridges inside Cabot at a fraction of the cost the city had expected to pay has caused conflict between elected officials on both sides, with some members of the council wanting to accept the offer, others not, and the mayor and county judge plainly angry with each other.

Alderman David Polantz has asked for an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the county building roads inside the city that might not meet the city’s specifications, and County Judge Charlie Troutman is speaking out about his office having jurisdiction over all roads in the county, even in incorporated areas. The questions Polantz wants answered have already been answered, he told the council during the last council meeting.

But the dissention escalated late last week, when Alderman Odis Waymack was turned away when he asked for a copy of a survey of First Street, where the old bridges are located. Waymack has hired an engineer to figure the flow rates to determine how large the round culverts need to be to replace the seven one-lane bridges Troutman says his workers can install for $75,000 instead of the $750,000 the city expects to pay for box culverts.

Waymack and Alderman Tom Armstrong have sponsored an ordinance to pay the county $75,000 to do the work and another $400,000 to build roads to carry part of the traffic load that is now in the downtown area.

“In the first place, I think it’s a heck of a note that we have two engineers on staff and I had to hire an engineer to do the flow studies on these culverts. Then when I went to get the information I needed from Public Works, I was denied. I was told I would have to go through the mayor,” Waymack said Friday after he spoke with Jim Towe, Public Works director about the survey.

“It appears we’ve no longer got a mayor in Cabot, we’ve got a dictator,” he said.
Towe says he was only doing as he has been told.

“(Waymack) came in and asked for a copy of the survey on First Street,” Towe said.
“All requests are supposed to go through the mayor. I told him any requests from any member of the council have to go through the mayor. That’s been my directive since I’ve been here…I work for the mayor.”
Stumbaugh says Waymack has not been refused anything because he has not asked.

“He has not contacted me, nor has he requested anything,” the mayor said.
“He has no authority to tell city employees what to do and that goes for any city council member…Odis is just mad he’s not running the city,” he continued.

Waymack said he decided to hire engineer Adam Whitlow after Stumbaugh commented several times that no one knew how big the culverts need to be.

Whitlow confirmed Tuesday that Waymack has hired him for the job.
“Odis has hired me to review the culverts to make sure they are adequately sized,” Whitlow said, adding that the survey the city has “would help me eliminate a lot of assumption.”

The county doesn’t have an engineer on staff like the city does, and Troutman doesn’t usually use one for small road projects in the county. But he told the council last week that he had no objection to getting professional help with sizing the culverts on First Street.

A county committee has put together a plan for alleviating traffic problems in Cabot. But replacing the aging, one-lane bridges on First Street is not really part of that plan. Troutman offered to do the work after he learned how much the city planned to spend.

Alderman Polantz, who has asked for an attorney general’s opinion, has said he is concerned about replacing the bridges with round culverts because that work would do nothing toward turning the street into a main artery as planned for the future.

Stumbaugh said he wants the city to do things right for a change.
“They’re wanting to do things halfway,” the mayor said about the work Troutman has offered to do. “The citizens of Cabot deserve better. They’ll get better as long as I am mayor.”