Leader Blues

Friday, June 16, 2006

TOP STORY>> Cabot, county in deal

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Lonoke County will help replace some of the city’s old bridges in exchange for help with road building.

An ordinance on hold since March to allow the county to replace seven worn, narrow bridges on First Street that lead to a ballpark in Cabot in exchange for the city helping the county build two roads that could help with traffic congestion in the city will go before the council again Monday. But this time Alderman Odis Waymack, one of its sponsors, believes he has the answer to one of the questions that has been holding up passage: Will the round culverts County Judge Charlie Troutman plans to use be large enough?

The answer, a qualified “yes,” came from an engineering that is costing Waymack $2,300.

The ordinance that the council could finally vote on Monday night says the county will charge the city $75,000 to replace the bridges with culverts, and the city will contribute $400,000 toward the construction of two roads.

One of those roads was started last fall. It will join Highway 5 to Hwy. 89 West and will provide a route to the new Wal-Mart without fighting downtown traffic, but it will likely not be completed this year without help from the city.

The city had planned to spend $750,000 to replace the narrow bridges with box culverts that would allow the street to be widened into a main artery when funds become available later. Trout-man’s man wouldn’t allow for future widening of the road, which has been a sticking point for Alderman David Polantz, who has said the city must start planning better for the future.

According to a water flow study conducted by Adam Whitlow, Troutman’s plans for five of the seven bridges are adequate for the water that would flow through them. The sixth bridge would need to be replaced with four-foot culverts instead of three-foot.

But plans for the seventh, the one closest to the downtown area, are inadequate. That bridge would need to be replaced with either six, four-foot round culverts or two, four-foot by seven-foot box culverts.

Whitlow based his findings on a drainage study that had already been completed by the city.

That study is at the center of a freedom of information controversy between Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh and Alderman Waymack.

Waymack was turned away for Cabot Public Works when he asked for the drainage study. Employees said he had to go through the mayor to get it. Waymack refused to call the mayor about it and filed a lawsuit instead.

Stumbaugh says no law was violated because Waymack never said he was requesting the study under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. And if he wasn’t re-questing it under the FOIA, then it was a simple request for information that should have been made of the mayor, and not city employees, who have too much work to do to be bothered by council members. The case has not been heard by a judge.