Leader Blues

Saturday, December 29, 2007

TOP STORY >>City eyes long-term planning

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Along with the city’s 2008 budget of $17.8 million that Mayor Tommy Swaim presented recently to the Jacksonville city council, he also turned in a $17.8 million plan of long-range capital improvements.

Some of the work, such as the new library, has already started, while others will get a green light in 2008 and yet others are planned for some time in the future.

Jacksonville’s capital improvement plan identifies $13.4 in infrastructure construction improvements and $600,000 in drainage projects, plus $3.7 million in library bond construction.

The capital improvement plan, according to city officials, stems from the considerations of Jacksonville’s present condition, its past trends and its aspirations for the future.

The mayor, in the plan’s introduction, calls it a “guide for achieving a more orderly, convenient and attractive community.”
Two projects on the capital improvement list will be funded from a 1-cent sales tax city residents passed in 2003. The money from that tax funded the cost of Jacksonville’s aquatic park, the Splash Zone.

It will also fund the Joint Education Center, a $14.4 million college campus to be built by the city and the Air Force. President Bush recently signed into law Congress’ $555 billion spending bill, which includes funds for the center. The city’s portion of the bill is $5 million and comes from the one-cent sales tax.

The education center will be located off Vandenberg Boulevard near Highway 67/167 outside the Little Rock Air Force Base.
Up to six public and private colleges will offer courses at the center and will be used by the military as well as civilians.

The Capital Improvement Plan also lists the multi-million dollar joint police and fire training facility, which will also be paid for from the one-cent sales tax. Originally projected to cost slightly more than $1 million, the facility is expected to cost $ 4 million by the time it is built.

Currently, police and firefighters have to receive a large portion of their training outside of Jacksonville. This facility would keep them here and would be used by other fire and police departments in central Arkansas as well.

Also on the city’s to-do list is a $275,000 expansion of Station Four, which was built in 1978 and designed to house two firefighters. Current industry standards and response needs require that each engine company be staffed with at least three firefighters.

The station, at just 600-square- feet, has reached its capacity. An expansion would provide more living space as will as room for an ambulance and its crew.

Station Three, which was identical to Station Four, was remodeled this year.

Another $500,000 will be needed to add a fifth station to the Jacksonville Fire Department. An additional station is needed because of the increase of new subdivisions on the west side of the city.

The new station would probably be located, according to the improvement plan, on West Main Street, east of Bayou Meto.
This station would also be responsible for responding to Gravel Ridge and supplementing that community’s fire department.

The city is also looking at widening west Main Street at a projected cost of $1.5 million, making the road four lanes from Redmond Road to Harris Road. This project will improve the dangerous “s” curve in the area and rework the area around the bridge to improve traffic safety.

At $1.4 million is the planned widening of Graham Road. The project will widen the road from Loop Road to Oak Street where drivers must turn to get on the Main Street overpass.

The original cost of the planned widening was $5 million with state and federal funds paying for the rest, but current estimates have the price placed at $7 million.

The capital improvement plans also include $250,000 for a traffic light at Main Street and Harris Road, $100,000 for land acquisition to add to the city’s parks and historical sites such as the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield, $401,626 to foster commercial and industrial development, especially along Redmond Road and General Samuels.

Drainage projects include a $100,000 improvement to Toneyville Road to Max Howell drainage system, $300,000 to replace the Northeastern culvert bridge, $150,000 to repair, replace and improve a culvert area at Woodbriar and Canady, and $45,000 to help with Fox Glen drainage.