The Van Buren City Council took its first step toward enacting a $10 million capital improvement package Monday night (July 16), authorizing Mayor Bob Freeman to proceed with new fire and police stations.
Freeman was authorized to award the contract to Architecture Plus Inc. who will design and oversee the projects that together represent approximately $6 million of the total improvement package.
Freeman told The City Wire on the night of the special election that “the remainder of 2012 would consist of arranging professional services” to move forward all the various projects.
Monday night’s approval is one of the first major steps, but the actual revenues will not start rolling in until January 2013.
The updates were made possible after 70% of Van Buren voters passed a 1% increase in the city’s sales and use tax at the July 10 special election. Half the proceeds will fund new fire and police stations as well as a new senior center ($2.5 million) and park improvements ($1.5 million). While .50% of the tax will be ongoing in order to fund operations of these items, the capital improvements portion will sunset in seven years unless voters approve otherwise.
“This is a community moving forward,” Freeman said, adding a reference to the financial turmoil in the city of Scranton, Pa., where unfunded pensions and a cash-flow crisis recently forced Mayor Chris Doherty to cut all employee salaries to minimum wage.
“The citizens of Van Buren, Arkansas, said (on July 10) ‘We’re not going that direction. We’re moving forward, and we’re going to make a difference together.”
Also Monday night, the council passed two ordinances appropriating a total of $374,242 in new funding for the Southside Drainage Project and additional street overlays at 24th Street and Industrial Park Road.
The Southside Drainage Improvement Project, which entails the areas of Vine, 11th, and Drennen Streets, was originally awarded to Goodwin & Goodwin Inc., by the lowest bid of $239,118. The additional $133,561 needed is mostly grant funding, bringing the project’s overall cost to $372,679.
As for the street overlays, Freeman said the additional $241,680 needed is “mostly due to the quantity of asphalt related to the projects,” which will total $871,814 when finished.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Van Buren City Council will take place on Aug. 27.