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City approves guardrail request

by Marc Hayot | April 14, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
City hall

SILOAM SPRINGS -- City directors unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday asking the Arkansas Department of Transportation for a guardrail along the retention pond on U.S. 412 near the Welcome to Siloam Springs sign.

This will be the city's second request for a guardrail due to two separate motor vehicle accidents that resulted in a vehicle crashing into the retention pond.

The first accident occurred on Jan. 1, 2019, when a vehicle crashed into the pond and was flipped, causing the death of 11-year-old Tyner Levi Hammett.

The second accident occurred on March 18 where a vehicle crashed into the pond and the driver was arrested in connection with driving while intoxicated and was not transported to the hospital, according to the Police Department.

Resolution 09-21 was originally on the city's consent agenda meaning it would have been approved automatically with the rest of the agenda, but was pulled off by Director David Allen during the meeting. Allen did so to stress the necessity for the guardrail as well as the fact that a child died during one of the accidents.

"I agree completely we need to be requesting this," Allen said. "I would like us to further state that if the state is not going to do it, we will do it."

City Administrator Phillip Patterson reminded the board that everything between the wall and the highway is within the state's right-of-way, meaning the state has sole authority for that portion of land.

"I don't believe that the city has the authority to go install something in the state right-of-way without the highway department's permission," Patterson said.

Patterson said in 2019, the city sent a request to the state for a decorative guardrail in keeping with nature of the pond and even offered to pay for it, but the Highway Departmment said no.

Patterson also said he thinks the last request was either a letter signed by Patterson and the city engineer or just an email sent by the city engineer. This time, Patterson would like to add more weight to the request by having a formal resolution adopted by the city directors, he said.

Along with the resolution, Patterson said he wanted to put additional pressure on the highway department by having signed letters from state Rep. Delia Haak and state Rep. Robin Lundstrum to add more muscle.

Director Lesa Rissler asked Patterson why the city can't simply put a guardrail at the wall itself in the pond. Patterson responded the idea of the guardrail is to slow a vehicle before it gets to the pond. A vehicle traveling fast enough could hit a rail right at the pond and still fly into the pond, he said.

Director Carol Smiley said she would like the resolution to just request the guardrail and not mention anything about the city paying for it unless they get a denial from the state.

Patterson said he would like to approach the state with all the cards on the table and tell the state agency if it's a cost issue, the city would be willing to share in the cost of the guardrail, forcing the department to give the city a hard no. A decision on the next step will not be made until the city hears from the state, Patterson said.

Allen said what Patterson's plan is the right way to go but questioned why ArDOT cares about anything on grassy property.

"This is not an unreasonable request and I think this is by far the best route now, what my point is if they still turn us down I believe we still need to do something," Allen said. "... And if they refuse to allow it, I say we do it anyway and let them take us to court."

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