Jonesboro city council contenders talk about blighted northern section of the city

by Roby Brock ([email protected] 561 views 

Infrastructure in parts of northern Jonesboro is crumbling and city officials need to be proactive in fixing these problems, Alderman candidate Tom Elwood recently told members of the Jonesboro Kiwanis Club. The bridge on Patrick Street is falling in on itself, and is in desperate need of repair, said Elwood who is challenging Dr. Charles Coleman in Ward 2, Position 1. Incumbent Ward 6, Position 1 Alderman Bobby Long joined Elwood and Coleman in the discussion, while his opponent, Tommy Baker did not.

Elwood blasted city officials for buying heavy duty equipment when it would have been cheaper to lease, he said. The city spent a lot of money building retention ponds that don’t work properly, and it’s one of the reasons Jonesboro and Craighead County have so many drainage problems, he added. Traffic problems are an issue and will continue to get worse as Jonesboro continues to grow, he said.

Coleman agreed with Elwood about the blight in northern Jonesboro. City officials have concentrated on developing other parts of the region’s largest city, and have neglected this section, he said. Some of the problems officials have is a lack of participation by the public, Coleman said. He wishes more people would attend council meetings and offer input.

Sales tax increase talks have created a lot of controversy in recent years, and Coleman said he understands why people don’t want to be overly taxed. But, the city’s $60 million annual budget continues to tighten as the city has expanded, and the funds will have to come from somewhere to maintain services and pay for capital improvement projects. He said the city can’t live off the promise of acquiring future state and federal grants. If a sales tax is asked for, it needs to have a specific purpose and doesn’t need to be multi-purpose. For instance, if a sales tax to fund the police department is asked for then that’s all that should be included.

Traffic flow is becoming a major problem, and it needs to be studied, he said. One change that is on the horizon is better lighting on Patrick Street. He recently spoke with Jonesboro City Water and Light and a lighting project along the street will get underway soon.

Long wouldn’t commit to supporting any new tax proposals. If a sales tax proposal had a specific purpose, and had parameters or goals with a sunset clause he might be able to support it, he said.

The city’s budget has less wiggle room than it used to, and Long said he’s not sure what the solution could be. Spending cuts could be a possibility. Long voted against spending $450,000 for a gravel pit Craighead Forest because he didn’t think it made sense to buy that while there are sidewalks crumbling in parts of the city. Long said he’s also unsure if the city needs to be involved in projects, such as the proposed aquatic park when it might make more sense for private industry to tackle it, he said.

One idea that Long has floated in the construction of “pocket parks” throughout the city to increase property values and develop green spaces. When a developer begins the housing development project, the city could buy one of these lots at fair market value and develop a green space. The developers may also be required to contribute to the green development too, he added.