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Council hears more city needs in tight budget year

Posted: April 29, 2014 - 8:09pm

 

The last round of city department heads told the Conway City Council what they needed and what was on their “wish lists” on Tuesday night at the council’s second work session.

 

Deputy City Attorney Chuck Clawson said that his office needs a law clerk to help handle the current caseload.

 

Giving an update on his office, Clawson said the city’s DWI process is working well. District Court Judge Susan Weaver “likes to see a number” when handling DWI cases, and the district court’s process gets the judges one when a DWI suspect declines to submit to a breath alcohol test. When someone declines, police contact Clawson who contacts Weaver. Weaver signs a search warrant via iPad to get a blood sample drawn involuntarily, and the blood alcohol content is admissible in court.

 

Jack Bell, the city’s chief of staff, told the council that a new city hall would be needed at some point in the future. The current one on Front Street was built in 1963, and has some age-related issues. The Simmons Bank location on Markham Street might be repurposed as a city hall, Bell said, but this won’t be a near-future project.

 

Mayor Tab Townsell again reminded the council that the “flat” sales tax over the last two years has left the city with a bare-bones budget, since the city’s tax structure depends largely on retail sales. Attracting more retail development is a good step, but there will be more discussion about increasing general fund revenue.

 

“We’ll either find it one way or find it another way or do without,” Townsell said.

 

In police and fire personnel, Townsell said, and in terms of the number of workers in the finance and city attorney’s offices and other departments, the city is not keeping up with “peer” cities.

 

In a piece of business left over from the last regular council meeting, an ordinance effecting five-year financing to pay for the city’s part of the Western Loop road project’s south I-40 interchange was passed. 

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MessiahAndrw
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MessiahAndrw 04/30/14 - 09:18 am
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Nobody seems to be noticing

Nobody seems to be noticing the white elephant in the room. Money is tight, revenue is not expected to grow significantly in the future, yet we're building a massively expensive freeway through western Conway.

a) While we're getting most of the cost subsidized from higher levels of government today, we're inheriting the full cost of maintaining it. It's going to screw us over in a generation. We don't have the money to maintain what we have now (we hear it every week), and won't have the money to maintain it then either.

b) When you make it easier to travel greater distances, people and businesses are going to be encouraged to build farther out. What happens? The more spread out we are 1) the more time each of us are spending on the roads because the farther we have to drive to get anywhere, 2) the more spread out our tax base will be (same revenue but greater area means more miles of streets, fire and police protection, mail and garbage routes, water/sewage/gas pipelines, electrical lines to maintain.)

So 1) traffic will be worse, 2) greater maintenance budgets for the city.

It's going to be a death stab for our city. Yet why do we build this? Probably because we view building roads as progress - even if it sends us broke and thins out our tax base.

It reminds me of the 1950s sketches of Mars colonies. It was common to see wide roads filled with cars;

Despite a) the bubble has four blocks, you could walk anywhere in 3 minutes, b) sending cars to Mars would be prohibitively expensive. Yet, someone out there thought building roads was cool and fantasized about driving around in a 2 street bubble.

There's so much land available in the middle of Conway - just drive around Dave Ward Drive and Harkrider Street and you'll see vacant land everywhere. Why aren't we trying to get productive use out of what we already have - what we are already providing infrastructure and services to? All of that underdeveloped/vacant/abandoned land is an untapped tax source.

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