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The Bryant City Council approved four improvement projects for area parks with two members voting against one project and another absent during the meeting Tuesday night.

The council held a workshop earlier in the month to discuss the projects, which are to be paid for using some of the remaining A&P Commission funds.

The first project approved adds funding to the Bishop Park Festival Electric. Originally, the council approved $35,000 for the project, but it will actually cost $52,564.70 so the new cost was approved.

The council also approved the Bishop Park Pavilion project increase from $111,159.99 to $170,209.29. It also approved a flood plain variance because it is designed to be flood proof and won't have people in it during flooding.

Council members RJ Hawk and Carlton Billingsly expressed concern about approving both the Alcoa 40 Park improvements and Ashley Park upgrades at the same time. Hawk thought if the council waited on the Alcoa project the cost might decrease. Council Member Butch Higginbotham said based on his years of experience in construction and the current political climate with China, he believes the cost will only go up if they wait.

City Engineer Ted Taylor said approving the projects now allows him design time. He will set a timeline for when each project begins.

Even with Hawk and Billingsly voting against, the Alcoa 40 project was approved. For that project, the plan is to use the space where the old concession stand sits and demolish part of the structure to put in restrooms. A steel pavilion will be put around it as well.

Parks Director Chris Treat described it as a remodel. The total cost will be $161,280.

The final project will be to upgrade the playground equipment and bathroom facilities at Ashley Park for a total cost of $216,732.25. It was also approved.

The public comment portion of the meeting focused on three topics.

Two residents sent letters to Higginbotham asking the council to approve the park projects.

Two additional residents of Prospect Park spoke and several more wrote letters to council members. They are concerned they were informed they would have to begin paying the electric bill for the street lights in the neighborhood at a cost of $1,400 per year.

Resident Betty Wolf said many of the people in the community are seniors on a fixed income.

Mayor Allen Scott said the issue came up when it was discovered during an audit. Neighborhoods with private streets are supposed to pay for their own street lights.

The council discussed the issue and came to a consensus that the city should wait until the audit is finished and make the change for all private streets the city has been paying the light bill for. Billingsly added that the city must give the residents ample notice before the change was made.

They noted that if the streets are deeded to the city and meet city standards, the city would continue to pay for the lights.

The last topic for comments became heated.

Residents Adam Davis and Orlando Chavez came to the council to complain about one of their neighbors in Cambridge Place.

The pair claimed the front and back yards of the home are trashed with boxes and other items in the drive way. Davis said he called code enforcement, which he claimed had come out to the home, but had not taken action.

The men said the home is bringing down property values and causing pests in other homes.

Joe and Brenda Boyd, the homeowners of the property, both told the council they have been working on cleaning the property and that it is only that way due to helping a neighbor. While giving their comments, Scott kept having to stop them and also had to keep Davis and Chavez from making comments to each other. Scott reminded them they are only permitted to make comments to the council.

Brenda Boyd also made an accusation that she had property stolen from the residence.

Code Enforcement Director Greg Huggs said it has only been a month since the first complaint and he has been working with the owners to give them time. A citation was issued.

He became upset because he felt Davis and Chavez were implying Code Enforcement is not doing its job. He said they have followed the ordinance to the letter.

Council did not take action regarding the issue.

The council heard a department report from Public Works Director Mark Grimmett.

He talked about the work streets and stormwater have done and how the department has saved money for the city by doing many projects in house that would normally be contracted out.

He presented the council information that if Public Works could purchase two pieces of equipment for $400,000 total, the department could save the city $2.5 million on contracts by doing underground infrastructure renewal in house.

That savings would only be for the projects that are planned. Going forward, the city would save more on future projects verses having to contract them out to someone who has the equipment. Grimmett said he has employees that know how to use the required equipment.

He added the water committee recommended approval.

He said he would bring a budget adjustment to the council at its next meeting to make the purchase. The council members seemed to be in favor of the purchase.

Taylor gave an update on the Bryant Parkway Project. He said due to some grants the city is working on, the lead agency for the project is now the Federal Highway Department and not the Federal Aviation Administration so they are having to reformat some of the drawings for review.

He expects the project to be complete by 2023.

Allen added that U.S. Congressman French Hill said he would help push approval for the project.

In other business, the council took action regarding the following:

• Heard and approved financial reports.

• Approved the ordinance to destroy certain city records.

• Approved ordinances to levy taxes personal and real property.

• Approved a petition to form the Spring Hill Manor Municipal Property Owners Sewer Improvement District of Bryant, Arkansas.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the city to provide water and sewer to Sam's Hill Subdivision.

• Approved an ordinance waiving competitive bidding to allow the fire department to purchase a tractor to maintain its properties.

• Approved police department vehicles for sale.

• Approved waiving competitive bidding for the lease of police vehicle from Enterprise. Police Chief Carl Minden explained this will end up saving the city money and allow them to get vehicles faster than the previous purchase plan.

• Approved a temporary COVID-19 compensatory time policy.

Scott reminded the council his Coffee with the Mayor will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, via YouTube Live. His guest will be Bryant Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters.

There will be a promotion ceremony for the Bryant Police Department at 10 a.m. Aug. 5, at Love Auditorium. They will also present a retirement award and recognize the Dispatcher of the Year.

Scott announced he has spoken to people about filing the slots for a burn committee and is working to set a date for the first meeting.

He also plans to set a date to interview candidates for the city attorney position being vacated by Josh Farmer. He believes the city will need a special meeting to present the candidates to the council. There are four applicants.

He reminded people school starts Aug. 24 and they should expect traffic issues, especially due to COVID-19 causing transportation changes.

City council meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.

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