Springdale residents voted on Tuesday (Feb. 13) to issue $224.7 million in bonds to fund multiple projects in the city.
Voters approved in a special election $92.7 million for street improvements, $42.6 million for construction on a redesigned municipal complex downtown, $21.3 million for parks and recreation, $17.7 million for new fire stations and $5.6 million toward a new animal shelter for the city.
The bond authorizations continue a 1-cent sales tax levied in 2003 and continued in 2006 as approved by Springdale voters.
“We appreciate the support from the community, and we were pleased to see people come out and vote in this important election,” Mayor Doug Sprouse said in a statement. “Although we expected these items to pass, we did not take it for granted. Without the trust and encouragement of our residents, the large and important projects that will be completed with this bond would not be possible. We hope our residents will continue to be engaged in the process as we all work to bring these initiatives to life.”
The proposed projects were contingent on approval of the repayment of $44.8 million in bonds previously issued, which residents also approved, with 83% of the vote. Close to 2,000 ballots were cast, according to unofficial results released by Washington County Election Commission on Tuesday night. The largest percentage of spending, $92.7 million, will go toward street improvements. This ballot measure was approved by 84% of voters, according to the unofficial results.
Details of specific projects are still to be determined, 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.
Seventy-nine percent approved a bond issue of up to $42.6 million to fund 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, Melissa Reeves, director of public relations for the city, told Talk Business & Politics late last year.
She said Springdale’s growing population has led to a need to expand and improve the municipal campus. 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, Reeves said. “We outgrew it the day we moved in.” With the new facility, several city departments and services that are now separated will be under one roof for the convenience of residents, and the city’s downtown jail would be removed, Reeves said. The city courtroom also would be expanded under the proposed plan.
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.”
Design costs for the municipal complex project are covered by a $3.3 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program. Duvall Decker Architects of Jackson, Miss., is handling design, 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.
Specific projects have not yet been tied to the $21.3 million parks and recreation improvements bond issues, approved by 84% of voters.
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.
The $17.7 million bond issue for Springdale Fire Department improvements, approved by 84%, is intended to help build 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.
In terms of the $5.6 million issued for the animal shelter project, 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. The city also said, “Poor ventilation, plumbing issues and small living spaces spread diseases quickly in our large population of animals.” Seventy-four percent of voters approved the bond issue.
The city plans to build a new animal shelter for the city in a new, more centrally located and high-traffic area.
More information on the bond projects can be found here.
The Springdale special election was the first election since state law was passed in 2017 requiring individuals show photo identification in order to vote. There were four provisional ballots, and three were related to lack of ID, said Jennifer Price, coordinator for the Washington County Election Commission. Price said the new law did not impact the election.