North Little Rock City Council to partner with transportation, housing entities

FILE — North Little Rock City Hall at 300 Main St. is shown in this 2020 file photo.
FILE — North Little Rock City Hall at 300 Main St. is shown in this 2020 file photo.

The North Little Rock City Council voted to approve partnerships with the Arkansas Department of Transportation and the North Little Rock Housing Authority on Monday.

The partnership with the Department of Transportation will allow for a new two-way turn lane at the Dollar General Distribution Center along U.S. 70.

Funds for the project will come out of a 2019 surplus from the state that was approved by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

A study by the Department of Transportation estimated that the cost will be $809,900, said Ember Strange, chief financial officer for the city.

"They're going to have about 40 trucks a day and they're going in and out to pick up loads," Strange added. "[The turn lane is] so they're not slowing down the traffic to get in and out after they load so they can keep going to supply the Dollar Generals."

The lane will allow 18-wheelers to turn either way and have enough space to back up, she explained.

The city hopes to have the project completed by June of 2024, Strange said.

Mayor Terry Hartwick said the lane should have been completed "months ago."

"What they're wanting is for a bigger spot for these trucks to come out and turn right so they won't interfere with Highway 70 traffic," Hartwick explained.

The city will likely ask the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for more money if additional projects like this are needed, he added.

The city's partnership with the housing authority will distribute $720,656 to North Little Rock residents who are unsheltered or are at risk of becoming unsheltered.

Bailey Noland, director of community development for the city, said these funds have been made available through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The resolution to administer tenant-based rental assistance will specifically help those who are unsheltered or at risk in rentals and will operate as a voucher system, Noland explained.

"It's assistance that's tied to the individual," she explained. "If I myself were to apply and were to qualify, I would be then awarded a voucher, I then have the opportunity to take that voucher and find my own housing."

This type of funding gives recipients the flexibility to find a rental property that works for them and is safe, Noland said.

Applicants will be able to apply for the American Rescue Plan Act funds through this separate voucher program and won't have to wait on the Housing Authority's other funding sources.

The city will develop an agreement to outline administrative requirements for those in need.

"We'll work with the housing authority on those pieces to make sure that it's being tailored toward the folks that need it the most," Noland explained.

Council member Debi Ross said she has heard from constituents that students in the North Little Rock School District are living in their cars and inquired about whether they would qualify.

Noland said yes, a liaison from the school district was present at the consultation for these funds and provided data on their students.

"One thing, it's important to remember, is that being homeless doesn't always mean that you're sleeping on the street," she explained. "If you're sleeping in your car because you don't have anywhere to go, you're homeless. If you're sleeping on your friend's couch because you lost your job and you don't have rent money, you're homeless."

Although no specific funding is set aside for these unsheltered students, they would still qualify, Noland said.

The families will have to go through the "usual process" with the housing authority, which has worked closely with the school district in the past, she added.

Noland said she met with the housing authority on Monday to discuss options and provide information to the district liaison so families in need can apply for assistance immediately.

"If there were one of those families or other eligible individuals that were already on one of the other waiting lists, they would have the option then of applying for the home ARPA funds and it would be first come first serve in that sense," she explained.

Ross asked how many families would be impacted by these funds and Noland said the amount assigned to each voucher varies and it's hard to tell an exact number, but she would look into it more to find a ballpark figure.

Each voucher is renewed on an annual basis, Noland added.

The city council also voted to enter a contract with River City Ministry for affordable rental housing or non-congregate housing for unsheltered residents.

The city has set aside $300,000 for the ministry to acquire a property to be managed by their leaders.

"Because these funds grew out of the COVID pandemic, there was a specific emphasis on splitting people up, non-congregate," she explained. "So making sure that when they are housed that they are housed with their own bedroom, their own bathroom, their own kitchen -- it's not a facility that's like a group home."

This is not the first time the two have partnered to assist those who are unsheltered, Noland reminded the council, and the ministry outlined property options for the city to review in a request for proposal.

Upcoming Events