Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TOP STORY >>Large ditch roadblock to Wal-Mart

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

A country road, paved like most country roads in Lonoke County, now leads from Highway 5 almost all the way to the new, really big Wal-Mart in Cabot.

The only thing separating shoppers from their destination is a big ditch that one Cabot alderman hopes to fill at least temporarily with a couple of large culverts.

Two stumbling blocks to completing the two-and-a-half mile road built in less than a year by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman are money and the bigger problem of control of the ditch.

And that isnít a county-city issue; itís federal.

Troutman said Tuesday that he learned recently that the ditch that separates his road from the shopping district where the new Wal-Mart is located is controlled by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The Corps will allow him to cross the ditch, he said, but it requires a flow study from a certified engineer showing that the culverts he would install are large enough to handle the water that would run through them.

Troutman said he is meeting with an engineer Friday about the flow study.

Armstrong wants the city to pay for the culverts, since the county has already spent about $100,000 to build the 40-foot roadbed and pave it in a process commonly called chip and seal.

Armstrong said he believes the new road will help ease traffic congestion around Rockwood where Wal-Mart is located and also bring in additional tax revenue to the city.

It is commonly believed that some city residents who live around Highway 5 avoid Cabot traffic congestion by driving four and a half miles to shop in Jacksonville.

Troutman said that asphalting the new road 26 feet wide would probably cost about $225,000 and there is no way the county can pay that much this year.

But it is possible the new road still might open with or without city help before the end of the year.

The city could help with the flow study, since it has a certified engineer on staff, but Troutman isnít waiting for that since the mayor and the majority of the city council was not willing to help build the road.

Earlier this year, Armstrong and Alderman Odis Waymack sponsored an ordinance to allow the county to replace seven worn and dangerously narrow bridges on First Street that lead to a ball park in Cabot in exchange for the city helping the county build the road to Wal-Mart.

Troutman said he could replace the bridges with culverts for $75,000 instead of the $750,000 it might cost to replace them with bridges and sidewalks.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh told the council that he has seen no engineering reports on the planned project and questioned Troutmanís motives, demanding to know during one council meeting if Troutman owned land on the road he was building.
Troutman answered that he did not, that his land was on Highway 5.

Troutman said he had always expected to at least get some private help with building the road, but so far only one business (not Wal-Mart) has offered to help.

And neither did the city since the ordinance sponsored by Armstrong and Waymack failed despite Troutmanís assertion that the $200,000 he wanted the city to pay to put asphalt on the road would likely be made up with increased sales tax revenue from shoppers who might chose Cabot if they could get there without fighting the traffic.