Springdale voters to decide on downtown municipal complex funding

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 372 views 

With design costs covered by the Walton Family Foundation, the city of Springdale is now turning to its residents to approve funding to build a new criminal justice facility downtown and renovate the city’s administrative offices.

Springdale residents will vote in a special election Feb. 13 on whether to authorize an issue of bonds and existing sales tax revenue to fund construction up to $42.6 million on the municipal campus. It’s one of several bond issue items on the ballot.

The city created a web page detailing the ballot items.

The criminal justice building, measuring 85,651 square feet, will be connected to the 47,376-square-foot administration building at 201 Spring St. The city already owns the property, which is just north of the administration building, said Melissa Reeves, director of public relations for the city.

Design of the new complex was paid for through a $3.3 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program.

“This is one project that we’re really excited about,” Reeves said.

She pointed to reports that show Springdale outpacing other cities throughout the state and country in population growth, including a WalletHub study this fall that marked it the sixth-fastest-growing small city.

U.S. Census data show the city’s population grew from about 30,000 in 1990, to 45,798 in 2000, to 69,797 in 2010. Census estimates show the population at 78,557 in 2016.

The city’s municipal building was constructed in the 1990s. “We outgrew it the day we moved in,” Reeves said.

The new facility will bring several city departments and services previously separated under one roof. Reeves said the situation has led to confusion and inconvenience for residents who enter the municipal building and are redirected to a location down the street to handle their business.

“It’s not good customer service,” she said.

Community engagement and the building department will be moved from separate locations to the administration complex. The criminal justice building will house the Springdale Police Department and its Criminal Investigations Division, information systems, the city attorney and district court.

The city’s jail downtown will be removed. The police department is working with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to work out any changes in where inmates are housed, Reeves said.

One priority for renovation of the administration building is more meeting space. As of now, people have to listen from the hallway during City Council meetings that include popular topics.

The courtroom also is going to be expanded. When it was constructed, the court saw about 5,000 cases per year and now it sees 20,000, Reeves said, “and the court hasn’t gotten any bigger.”

“It’s time to improve the experience for our residents and accommodate how fast our community is growing. It’s also (an) important part of our downtown revitalization that this be a beautiful gathering space for the community,” she said.

Duvall Decker Architects of Jackson, Miss., designed the complex, working with Hight Jackson Associates of Rogers. The full design is scheduled to be complete by August 2018.

If all goes to plan, construction on the criminal justice building and renovation of the administrative offices are projected to be complete by December 2020, Reeves said.

OTHER BONDS
Springdale residents also will vote on whether to approve the paying off of $44.8 million in previous bonds, a necessary move in order to issue new bonds, according to the city. If that measure doesn’t pass, the rest of the projects also will not move forward.

Voters also will decide whether to spend up to $92.7 million on street improvements. Details of specific projects will be determined after the election, but the city has expressed plans to use some of the money for the extension of Gene George Boulevard from Bleaux Avenue to Wagon Wheel Road.

Parks and recreation improvements are tied to up to $21.3 million in bond issues on the ballot. The city hopes to use the money to add more trails, improve the city’s older parks and to build the proposed 120-acre Shaw Family Park in the northwest part of town.

Another ballot item asks for up to $17.7 million for Springdale Fire Department improvements. The money would go toward building a fire station in west Springdale. The city said it needs to build three new fire stations for fire and ambulance services to be able to keep up with the growing population and improve emergency response times.

About $5.6 million could go toward a new animal shelter in a new, more centrally located and high-traffic area. The city said the current facility is ill-equipped to handle any more animals, which is a growing issue because of the rapidly growing population. In addition, “Poor ventilation, plumbing issues and small living spaces spread diseases quickly in our large population of animals,” according to the city website.

Each bond issue will be its own ballet question. This bond authorizations will not include tax increases, but instead will continue the current 1% sales and use tax that was levied in 2003 and continued in 2006 as approved by Springdale voters, according to the city.

The special election was approved by City Council in its regular meeting Nov. 28.

Reeves said she expects the projects to move forward following the election.

“We have full faith in our residents. We have been great stewards of their money. All our other bond programs have had such a positive impacts. Residents see that and support that,” she said.

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