Bond issue, sales tax for highway project approved by Greenwood voters

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 481 views 

Greenwood voters on Tuesday (Dec. 10) approved by a three-to-one margin a bond issue for a road project designed to help relieve Greenwood’s traffic congestion problems.

The Greenwood City Council approved an ordinance in October calling for a special election to issue bonds that would finance Greenwood’s portion of a traffic relief project between the city and the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT).

Voters approved both questions on the ballot. The first question, which gives the city permission to retire a 2014 police fund bond voters approved in 2013, passed 611 for to 201 against. That bond issue created a ¼ cent sales tax specifically to pay for the city’s new police station.

“We need voter permission to pay off $2.2 million left on that bond,” said Thomas Marsh, Greenwood’s finance director.

The second issue, which extends that ¼ sales tax to be specifically used for the traffic relief project, passed with 617 for and 197 against. The sales tax will finance a 35-year bond from the 2014 bond for 35 years to generate the funds the city needs for its portion of the traffic relief project, which is $5 million, Marsh said.

By approving both issues, voters approved a 35-year bond initiative, but in actuality it will only extend the current tax theoretically another 16 years, Marsh said. If Greenwood’s sales tax revenues continue to see a 3.5% annual increase, as it has the past five years, the bond could be paid in 2038, one year earlier than the original bond’s maturity date of 2039. If the sales tax revenues stay flat where they are, the bond would still be paid off in 28 years, seven years early, Marsh said.

City officials hope the traffic relief project will spur future economic growth of city though as well as relieve traffic congestion. Greenwood sees significant traffic congestions in the mornings and afternoons that stem from the east side of the city on the Arkansas 10 Spur because there would be an alternate route around the city. The route would also help with safety concerns, according to the city. If a bridge is out or flooded between downtown and the east side of the city, emergency personnel would have a 60-mile detour.

The traffic relief project will be divided into two phases. The first will include one mile of new highway from the intersection of Arkansas 10 and Coker Street to the intersection of Arkansas 10 and Arkansas 96, which would then be added to the state highway system. Greenwood will assume ownership and responsibility for the portion of Arkansas 10 between Arkansas 96 and Bass Street once completed.

The second phase of the project will widen about 2 miles of Arkansas 10 between Coker Street and U.S. 71. Greenwood would assume ownership and responsibility of the portion of Arkansas 10 between Bass Street and Elm Street and the portion of Arkansas 10 Spur between Arkansas 10 and U.S. 71 upon completion. Finding a way to fix the congestion problems and safety concerns has been a priority for the city for at least the last 10-15 years, Marsh said.