Monette Council hears highway update

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

According to Brad Smithee, district construction coordinator for the Arkansas Highway Department, dirt work for the new Monette bypass at Highways 139 N and 18 through Monette is set to start next fall.

Brad Smithee, district construct coordinator for Arkansas Highway Department, spoke to the Monette City Council Monday, Sept. 16, about the Highway 18 expansion project. (Town Crier photo/Christie Zolman)

Monette Mayor Chub Qualls invited Smithee to speak at the Monday, Sept. 16, Monette City Council meeting to update the council and citizens on the Highway 18 expansion plans. Smithee said work from Lake City to the curve just outside of Monette is expected to be complete and that portion open by the end of this fall. He went on to say that work spanning from Big Lake to Manila will go to contract and start approximately next May.

"Right now you are seeing utility work," Smithee said. "The utilities from Manila to Monette are being moved now and as soon as they get an area clear work should begin. We expect that to go to contract and start next fall. We will start by doing earth work and structures such as bridges and culverts."

Smithee said the Monette bypass, which will bring the new Highway 18 through Monette and connect it to the existing Highway 18 at the curve just outside of Monette, will be a three year project. Once earth and structure work is done that work will have time to sit and settle before paving is done. Paving on the Manila to Monette and Monette bypass is expected in late 2015 and early 2016.

Council members asked if there will be a signal light at the new bypass going through Monette. All council members and the Mayor feel there is a need for one. Smithee said according to the studies that have been done in the area the area dose not warrant a traffic light.

"The new highway will be located near the nursing home," Mayor Qualls said. "We have older people that go to and from there several times a day and it is not going to be safe for them to cross five lanes of traffic going 60 miles an hour. We have school traffic and heavy equipment traffic that go down Highway 139 as well. We do not want there to be deaths or accidents to happen before there is a signal light put in."

Mayor Quall presented Smithee with a petition for a signal light to be placed on the new Highway 18. Smithee said the 335 citizens as well as the city's request for a signal light will be shared and taken in consideration as plans move forward. The Council was also concerned about what will happen to existing Highway 18 going through Monette.

"Will it become property of the city or Highway 18 business district automatically," Councilman Jason Stewart asked. "Will it be the state's to take care of or ours?"

Smithee said what happens to the old Highway 18 through Monette will not be decided until the project is completed.

During the meeting the council also heard from Monette citizens Rusty and Beth Thomas.

The couple has 11 acres of land that has livestock on it and did when the land was annexed into the city. The city of Monette has an animal ordinance that prohibits having livestock in the city limits. The Thomases would like to continue to have sheep on their property and use a shop they have on the property to house the animals but wanted to know if they are in violation of the animal ordinance.

City recorder Vickki Carroll read the animal ordinance adopted last year. The Council agreed they wanted to stay in line with the ordinance but also agreed that the annexed area needed to have special consideration.

The Council agreed to table the issue for one month so Mayor Qualls could talk to city attorney Johnny Dunigan about possibly un-annexing a portion of the annexed land or changing the animal ordinance as it pertains to annexed areas.

In other business the Council agreed to allow Mayor Qualls to submit the purchase of a backhoe and a new lawn mower for the city to the state for General Improvement Funds. Qualls said the city will be getting $30,000 in general improvement funds, which would be enough to purchase the mower and pay a down payment on a Case backhoe.

The Council agreed to discuss adopting state building codes at next month's meeting after Mayor and Mrs. Carroll have time to check to see if the city has already adopted those codes.

The Mayor also informed the council the city is eligible for up to $150,000 in General Improvement Funding through Rural Development. The Mayor asked for the council to pass a resolution that would allow the city to submit to the state the purchase of two new police trucks with the cost of the needed police equipment included for that grant. The Council passed the resolution unanimously giving the mayor permission to apply for the grant for the purpose of purchasing two new police trucks.

Monette City Clean Sweep Week will be Oct. 7-11 and the city wide yard sale will be Saturday, Oct. 5.

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