Leader Blues

Monday, August 10, 2009

TOP STORY >> City moves to expand Dupree park

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council agreed Thursday that it would chip in $150,000 if the Parks and Recreation Department gets a 50/50 state grant to add 16 acres to Dupree Park.

The council also agreed to make it easier for residents to e-mail city hall with queries.

The parks department wants to buy and develop the acreage just to the east of the playground.

Once the land is purchased, the skate park will be moved to that location and expanded for the skateboarders. A nature trail and other improvements, including a special-needs ballfield, are also planned.

The skate park is now just south of the community center, but the city has plans to build a large farmers market pavilion and a exercise track in the area.

Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Griggs said the city has been looking for a safe area to relocate the skate park that would allow for expansion and have needed restroom facilities. There are restrooms at the playground.

But before the parks department can apply for the funds, it needed a resolution from the city stating that it would match the state grant. The council unanimously approved that resolution.

It was the first meeting for Alderman John Gary Fletcher when he became mayor.

Three aldermen – Kevin Mc-Cleary, Linda Rinker and Avis Twitty – were absent.

The resolutions states that the city council “agrees to provide the necessary local portion of the development cost of the entire project.”

The state’s portion will come from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Outdoor Recreation Grant Program.

In other council business:

– The council voted to reorganize and rename its Residential Housing Facilities Board to the Jacksonville Public Facilities Board.

City Attorney Robert Bamburg explained that state law has expanded the powers and scope of city facility boards over the years, and the action will bring the city’s board in line with the changes.

By widening the scope and power of the board, it also allows the transfer of $100,000 from the city’s Advertising and Promotion Commission to the facilities board to be used in Jacksonville’s effort to get its own school district and to improve its school buildings.

In the past, the board has been used to help secure funding to build city hall and the community center.

Sherwood’s Public Facility Board was instrumental in obtaining a $5.5 million loan to buy the 106-acre North Hills golf course and is now leasing it to the city for the cost of the loan.

According to the new ordinance, “The public welfare of the city will be enhanced by granting an extension of additional authority and powers to the Jacksonville Residential Housing Facilities Board to allow pursuit of the planning, development and financing of other public projects and facilities to benefit the city.”

Schools could be considered in that realm of other pubic projects.

Before voting, Alderman Bob Stroud wanted assurances that any funding decisions by the facilities board would come before the council for final approval. The city attorney said it would.

– Aldermen agreed to spend up to $50,000 with Vision Internet Providers to design an interactive website for the city. Mayor Fletcher said the site would better connect the city with its residents. “If someone has a concern or problem, they can e-mail the city on the website and it will go to the mayor and to the right department and be assigned a tracking number that will be used to keep the citizen informed,” he said.

– The council agreed with the Planning Commission and approved rezoning about an acre of land at 1100 N. James St. from C-1 (light commercial) to C-2 (commercial) for the possible development of a shopping strip center. Alderman also approved the rezoning of a small lot at 1512 Stamps St. from R-7 (mobile homes) to R-2 (multifamily) so a duplex could be built on the property.