Bond issues up for a vote in Springdale on Feb. 13

by Jennifer Joyner (JJoyner@nwabj.com) 282 views 

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 several improvement projects in the city. The city created a web page detailing the proposed 2018 bond program, linked to on its website at SpringdaleAr.gov. Click here to see a sample ballot.

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

No organized opposition to the ballot measures had been registered with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, as of publication.

The Committee to Move Springdale Forward was formed Jan. 22 in support of the measures, but as of publication no money had been raised or spent on the initiative, according to the commission.

Mayor Doug Sprouse advocated for the measures in a statement to Talk Business & Politics/Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.

“If approved by Springdale voters, the bond issue will have a large and positive impact on our community and infrastructure,” Sprouse said. “Thanks to previous bond programs, we were able to complete many projects that have been a boon for development in Springdale, such as the Don Tyson Parkway interchange, C. L. ‘Charlie’ & Willie George Park, and three east-west corridors: Huntsville Avenue, Don Tyson Parkway and Wagon Wheel Road.

“This bond program will be just as substantial. There are six ballot items, and if approved, each one will change the future of Springdale for the better. We are one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and we need to keep up with, and anticipate, the needs of our growing community. This bond program will help us do that without a tax increase.”

One measure on the ballot calls for paying off $44.8 million in previous bonds, a necessary move in order to issue new bonds, according to the city. If that item doesn’t pass, the rest of the proposed improvement projects also will not move forward.

Another item up for consideration is the approval of up to $42.6 million for renovations and construction on the city’s municipal campus.

With design costs covered by the Walton Family Foundation in Bentonville, the city of Springdale is asking residents to approve funding of the construction on a new criminal justice facility downtown and renovation of the city’s existing administrative offices.

The new criminal justice building, measuring 85,651 square feet, will be an addition 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 late last year.

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.

UNDER ONE ROOF
If the new facility is built, several city departments and services that are now separated will be under one roof. Reeves said the current 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 would be moved from separate locations to the administration complex under the proposed plan. The criminal justice building would house the Springdale Police Department and its Criminal Investigations Division, information systems, the city attorney and district court.

The city’s downtown jail would be removed, and the police department has been working with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to determine changes in where inmates would be housed, Reeves said.

One priority for renovation of the administration building is more meeting space. As of now, City Council meetings that cover hot topics within the community often draw crowds that exceed the maximum seating capacity of the meeting space, and people must listen from the hallway, rather than having seating within the room.

The city courtroom also would be expanded under the proposed plan.

When it was constructed, the court saw about 5,000 cases per yearm and now it sees 20,000, Reeves said. “And the court hasn’t gotten any bigger.”

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.

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

“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.

STREETS, PARKS IMPROVEMENTS
The largest percentage of spending proposed by the ballot measures would go to street improvements. Voters also will decide whether to spend up to $92.7 million on street improvements.

“Widening, extending and building roads will reduce traffic congestion, increase property values, and encourage further commercial and residential development,” according to the bond program web page.

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.

“We are currently working with city staff and the City Council to prioritize infrastructure improvement projects. We will have public meetings in the future and encourage feedback from residents to help us prioritize projects,” according to the city.

Another ballot issue pertains to parks and recreation improvements, which are tied to up to $21.3 million in proposed bond issues.

The city hopes to use the money to add more trails, improve the city’s older parks and to help build the proposed 120-acre Shaw Family Park in the northwest part of town. The project is supported by a $500,000 gift from the Shaw family.

The city held a public input session with renderings of the park this past October.

In terms of needs for improvement in the city’s older parks, it points to the Randall Tyson Recreational Complex as a prime contender.

“Springdale parks are a heavily used and valuable asset in Springdale. Regardless of where you live in Springdale, we want you to have access to a park for you and your family to enjoy,” according to the city.

FUNDING FOR EMERGENCY SERVICES
Another item on the ballot for the upcoming special election 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 plans 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.

Another item calls for about $5.6 million to go toward a new animal shelter for the city 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 increasing 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.

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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