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Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 1:51 p.m.

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Voters OK Springdale bond issue

Revenue to fund projects from roads to parks

By Laurinda Joenks

This article was published February 14, 2018 at 1:08 a.m.

nwa-democrat-gazettejt-wampler-edwina-gilmer-of-springdale-votes-tuesday-at-the-rodeo-community-center-in-springdale-voters-considered-a-bond-issue-to-fund-a-long-list-of-projects-in-six-ballot-questions

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Edwina Gilmer of Springdale votes Tuesday at the Rodeo Community Center in Springdale. Voters considered a bond issue to fund a long list of projects in six ballot questions.

The vote

Springdale residents approved a $224.6 million bond issue for projects in five areas. The sixth question on the ballot asked voters to extend a 1 percent sales tax to pay the bonds.

Complete but unofficial vote totals are:

Refunding bonds

• For: 1,796 ( 83 percent)

• Against: 360 (17 percent)

Streets

• For: 1,821 (85 percent)

• Against: 333 (15 percent)

Parks

• For: 1,694 ( 79 percent)

• Against: 458 (21 percent)

Fire Department

• For: 1,832 (85 percent)

• Against: 324 ( 15 percent)

Police, Court, City Hall

• For: 1,726 ( 80 percent)

• Against: 431 ( 20 percent)

Animal Shelter

• For: 1,606 ( 74 percent)

• Against: 551 ( 26 percent)

Source: Benton and Washington counties

Highfill vote

Voters in Highfill also went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to extend a 1 cent sales tax to refinance a bond issue to pay for water system improvements.

Complete but unofficials totals are:

• For: 12 (71 percent)

• Against: 5 (29 percent)

Source: Staff report

NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER David Hines (left) of Springdale assists Kathy Morledge of Springdale with her ballot Tuesday at the Rodeo Community...

SPRINGDALE -- Voters gave the green light Tuesday to a $224.6 million bond issue to pay for projects from roads to a new animal shelter. None of the six questions on the ballot received less than 74 percent support.

To pay for the bond issue, voters agreed to extend a one cent sales tax for 10 years past its expected expiration of eight to 10 years, Mayor Doug Sprouse has said.

Thanks to the population growth in Springdale, the sales tax revenue dedicated to paying the bonds is likely to be more than anticipated. The new bonds could be paid off in 15 years rather than 30 if revenue stays the same or continues to grow, he said.

"I am so proud of our city, of our citizens, our voters who want to keep this city moving forward," said Sprouse. "It's a wonderful place to live. We have wonderful people who live here. And I'm proud to live here.

"Now, we go to work. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We will have public meetings on different projects starting very soon."

In all, 2,162 Springdale voters in Benton and Washington counties, or almost 7 percent of registered voters, cast ballots. Springdale is in both counties.

The one question that had to pass for any of the projects to be done through a new bond issue was the refunding of the city's 2013 bond issue. The ballot question also covers the cost for issuing the bonds. The estimated $47.4 million refunding passed with 83 percent of the vote.

The cost of construction for all projects proposed for the bond issue totals $179,890,000. The construction totals are "up to" amounts, Sprouse said. For example, if construction of a new animal shelter doesn't cost $5.2 million, but the bonds provide that, any extra money will be used for road improvements.

The city expects the bonds to be issued in mid-July, Sprouse said.

Road work will receive the largest amount of money from the bond issue at an estimated $92,710,000.

The City Council will decide what road projects to build, but Sprouse said he thinks the first would extend Gene George Boulevard north to Wagon Wheel Road -- perhaps to the U.S. 412 bypass under construction -- and possibly south to Johnson Mill Road.

The extension also would provide the western leg of a box of five-lane roads around Springdale, including Wagon Wheel to the north, Don Tyson Parkway to the south and an extension of Arkansas 265 to Arkansas 264 on the east, which is under construction by the Arkansas Transportation Department.

Among the projects that could be paid for with a bond reissue are improving 40th Street north of Falcon Road to support the Game & Fish Commission's planned Northwest Arkansas Nature and Education Center; extending 48th Street north of its end point at the Walmart Supercenter on Elm Springs Road; extending Ford and Turnbow avenues west of Arkansas 265 to Butterfield Coach Road and adding a left-turn lane at Ford.

Voters also approved spending an estimated $42,580,000 to build a criminal justice center for police and courts and to renovate the city administration building.

A Design Excellence grant from the Walton Family Foundation paid for a needs assessment and initial design of the new buildings. The assessment by Duvall Decker Architects of Jackson, Miss., concluded all the departments need more space.

The proposed design would improve both accessibility and security for the city staff and residents. The campus would be built in phases over about three years, Sprouse said. The city expects to begin construction of the new police department in December along Huntsville Avenue north of its current building. The courts building would come next, with the remodeling of city hall last.

The new city administration building will include 120,000 square feet compared to the 45,00 square feet in the current building, not including off-site office space the city uses, according to Wyman Morgan, the city's director of administration and finance.

The city will also be building three fire stations for an estimated $17,635,000.

The fire stations would be at Kawneer Drive and East Huntsville Avenue in the city's industrial area, on Har-Ber Avenue across from Hellstern Middle School and at Ball and Downum roads in the far northwest corner of the city. The design of the Har-Ber station is completed, so construction could begin immediately, Sprouse said.

The additional stations would improve response times, said Fire Chief Mike Irwin. The National Fire Protection Association, which sets guidelines for fire departments, recommends each station have no longer than a four minute trip to a scene.

Irwin said with the new stations operating, firefighters could reach 61.9 percent of the areas in town within four minutes and 96.4 percent in eight minutes. Traffic and road conditions could affect those times, he said.

The city also gained voter approval Tuesday to spend an estimated $21,320,000 for parks and trails.

The bond would pay for two major park projects, Sprouse said -- the new Shaw Family Park in the far northwest area of town and renovating Randal Tyson Recreational Complex. The city would use any remaining money for projects at other parks.

The design of Shaw park near Elm Springs shows a wooded area, open lawns and walking trails. Sprouse likened the concept to Central Park in New York City. The design includes four adult softball fields with a concession stand and restrooms.

Randal Tyson park renovation would include new lighting, new concession areas, new bathrooms, replacing the chain-link backstops with netting, more parking for the Miracle League fields and bringing the park into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which was passed after the park opened, Sprouse said.

The plan also includes a splash pad and a dog park. Park-goers probably would notice the cosmetic changes most in the form of parking, landscaping and trails, Sprouse said.

Another park will see a big change when the city relocates its animal shelter to J.B. Hunt Park. Voters OK'd the shelter for an estimated $5,645,000.

The city contracted with Shelter Planners of America in Arlington, Texas, for an assessment and received the report in November. The firm concluded the existing shelter is too small and functionally ill-fitted for the growing city.

"In the past, it was customary to locate animal shelters at out-of-the-way places on the least expensive properties, like industrial areas," reads the needs assessment.

"Today, it is recognized that locating shelters in high-visibility locations not only increases visitors and the number of pets adopted and returned to owners, but also reduces the need for animal euthanasia and helps build public awareness and community goodwill. A good location can increase adoption by 100 percent."

NW News on 02/14/2018

Print Headline: Voters OK Springdale bond issue

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