By Jennifer Joyner
Bryant citizens connected with city officials Thursday, at the third in a series of town hall[more] meetings – the last of which, for residents of Ward One, will be Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at First United Methodist Church. Each city department gave updates and took questions.
The Saline County Regional Solid Waste Management District will build a recycling center near Saline County Airport, said executive director Michael Grappe. Accepted materials will include paper, plastic, yard waste, hazardous waste, electronic waste and old appliances. The project will cost about $150,000 to complete, Grappe said. Other recycling drop-off sites in Bryant include the parking lots of Bishop Park, city hall and Bethel Middle School.
Next year, the waste management department plans to implement a curbside recycling program that would run once or twice a month. Powers said the cost of the project would only be worth it, “if everyone pitches in and gives 100 percent.” Electronic Waste Day in October 2011 was a success because so many people participated, he said. That day, the department collected about 200,000 pounds of electronic waste, diverting it from the landfill.
Police Chief Mark Kizer explained the recent purchase of 33 police vehicles. Under Arkansas Constitution Amendment 78, the city was able to allow short-term financing without raising taxes or fees to citizens. Kizer said the replacement of so many vehicles was necessary because the department only replaced about four cars out of 50 per year, so many were in poor shape.
Computer and video equipment in the cars also becomes out-of-date and wears quickly, Kizer said. “Tires are only good for about 10,000 miles,” he added. “These costs are unavoidable.”
Kizer said the department chose to purchase Chevrolet Tahoe vehicles because there is only a $3,000 price difference between it and, for example, a Dodge Charger, and Kizer estimates they will last two to three times longer.
Alderman Brenda Miller read questions from anonymous constituents, including an inquiry about the rumored loss of one third of the Bryant city workforce within the past year. The citizen recommended an investigation from outside Bryant.
“I just want you to stop firing good people,” added audience member Tona DeMers.
Mayor Jill Dabbs said some of the employees included in this figure were seasonal workers. Also, the public is not always privy to the all of the information that affects these difficult decisions.
“I don't worry about the political backlash and, instead, try to make the decision that is best for the city of Bryant,” she said.
The road plan also continues to be a controversial issue.
“We desperately need connectivity in our city to ensure quality of life and economic sustainability,” said Dabbs.
The construction for the Raymar Road project is suspended indefinitely.
“We need feedback on whether or not the public wants to deviate from the plan proposed by the engineers before we can move forward,” she said.
Making city roads multimodal – accessible for walking and cycling – is another goal. There will be a “livability workshop” exploring this, along with other ways for Bryant citizens to “dream bigger,” March 15 at Bishop Park, Dabbs said.
Visitors from all over the United States see potential in Bryant, she added. “There is a lot of undeveloped land that is going to be developed, so we might as well do it right.”
Quarterly reports on the progress of the public works department are available at www.cityofbryant.org, the Mayor noted.
Another point of contention was the discussion of the proposed sign ordinance, which has yet to pass.
The current, temporary hold on signs seems to be working and “is a good test drive for the ordinance,” said Greg Huggs, chief building official for code enforcement.
Alderman Mike Chandler urged citizens to contact his fellow city council members if they felt a sign ordinance was necessary.
Derek Phillips, director of parks and recreation, discussed the possibility of building a splash pad at Mills Park. The “zero depth” water recreation area would be ideal for small children, he said. There would be spray features, etc. Several citizens discussed the option of incorporating the splash pad in Bishop Park – which was the original plan – but parking will potentially be a problem during sports season, Phillips said.
The audience applauded the addition of extra lighting in Bishop Park parking lot, and Phillips discussed a road that will be built this year, as an alternative emergency exit to the park.
Alderman Steve Gladden encouraged citizens to attend city council meetings, which are held the last Thursday of every month and are open to the public.
Citizens are invited to address the council before each meeting, Dabbs said.
“We'd like for you to come just to see what we're doing, not just when you're mad about something,” Gladden said.