Monette Council hears highway department proposal

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lori Tudor, assistant chief engineer-planning with the Arkansas Highway Department, along with Michael Fugett with the Highway Department were at Monday, Jan. 20, regular meeting of the Monette City Council to ask the city to take over maintenance of existing Highway 18 and a portion of Highway 139 that will act more as city streets once the new Highway 18 corridor is complete.

"We have spent years and years working on widening the Highway 18 corridor," Tudor said. "To date we have spent $144 million in construction cost with an additional $83 million remaining. Today I want to talk to you about the Monette bypass. The alignment for this was selected to minimize the impact to businesses, keep heavy truck traffic from downtown and maintain adequate parking downtown. Once the bypass is complete virtually all heavy traffic will be on the bypass. We are offering to overlay Highway 18 that goes through town and a portion of Highway 139 and inspect the two bridges doing any maintenance required before we turn those roads over to you if you vote to accept them. We feel that will carry the city well into the future before maintenance would be needed."

Tudor explained the Highway Department does not have the funds to maintain state highways as well as state highways acting as city streets. She said work on the Monette bypass has stopped until the city agrees to take on those streets. Alderman Bob Hurst asked Tudor how many towns that have taken over state highways as city streets were agriculture communities. He also asked if towns like Bay and Hardy had taken over those state highways or did the state still maintain them. Tudor said those cities had not taken on those roads. Hurst and other alderman then pointed out that heavy traffic would not be eliminated from downtown Monette. Hurst said with two gins, seed and chemical places, a factory, a grocery store, gas station and Subway there would be a lot of heavy traffic daily on Highway 18 and Highway 139 that would come through Monette and not through the bypass. It was pointed out that heavy equipment such as tractors and trucks carrying fertilizer as well as hauling modules to the gin would greatly damage those roads. Those points left Tudor asking why the state was even building a bypass.

"We all agree the bypass will help traffic flow to Jonesboro and keep trucks going to factories in Jonesboro and Blytheville out of downtown," Hurst said. "What we don't agree with is the burden you are trying to put on the city of Monette because of the excessive heavy equipment that will still travel those roads. We as a city don't have the budget to keep up those roads. We barely have the funds to maintain the city streets we have now."

Tudor explained the council had presented her with information that she did not have. She said she was told heavy traffic would be almost completely eliminated. Tudor said she was unaware of the gins and other businesses with heavy traffic.

"I will take this information back to administration in Little Rock so we can reevaluate this situation," Tudor said. "I was told heavy traffic would virtually be eliminated from the city but that is not the case. We will need to look at all those things and evaluate how much truck traffic will still be here."

The council told Tudor it was not trying to prevent the bypass but was trying to prevent the city from taking on a burden it can not handle. After the presentation from the Highway Department, Mayor Chub Qualls gave the state of the city address.

"The first thing I want to address is this is my last year of my second term and my intent is not to run again," Qualls said. "This will allow someone new to come in. I want you all to know how much I appreciate you and people have been good to me. I've always been treated with respect and I appreciate you very much."

Qualls then went month by month reviewing what the city did in 2013. The city of Monette passed a one cent sales tax, received grants, purchased needed equipment, agreed to organize a planning commission, did renovation projects and much more in 2013. Qualls said he expect 2014 to be another good year.

"I've got a year left and I'm going to do my very best with it," Qualls said.

He told the council the city will receive $237,000 in May or June to repair all of Reeves Street, Edna Mae Way, Fisher Street and others in town.

In other business the Mayor told the council the city has received $20,000 to purchase a new blue bag truck that can be used for whatever the city needs it for and the city will also get a chance to bid on its old blue bag truck at an upcoming auction. Monette will be reimbursed for the price of that truck when it is purchased allowing the city to have two new vehicles.

The council then voted to purchase a new John Deere tractor with a $3,000 trade in of its old tractor. Mayor Quall said the city was proud to receive a private donation from an anonymous person to pave the city's cemetery. The council then voted to reorganize the cemetery board to include the offices of chairman, secretary, treasurer and trustees. The city will also be pulling up some evergreen trees at the cemetery.

The council then once again discussed the water and sewer for a proposed new subdivision on Edna Mae Way. After much discussion alderman agreed they could not make a decision on reimbursement of the cost of putting water and sewer in for those proposed houses until the builder had a well laid out plan showing the elevation of the area, the number of houses that were going to be built there and the kind of houses that will be built. All agreed they wanted to see Monette grow but want to make sure if that area is going to have more than two houses that the water and sewer lines were laid to support future growth. If it was only going to be two houses built on the property then that is not a subdivision and would be treated like anyone else building a house.

"I want to see the city grow but I want it to be a standard of housing we can be proud of and will continue to be a standard we can be proud of," Alderman Philip Duffel said. "It needs to be a quality home."

Mayor Qualls also informed the council of some state voting changes that says if there are not 3,000 voters in a precinct then that precinct would be combined with another. It would be up to the Criaghead County Quorum Court to decide, but if that passed it could mean Monette and Caraway residents would have to vote in Lake City. As of now there haven't been any changes but the council needed to be aware there could be in the future. The Council then voted to repair the city's water and sewer clarifier, was told three rotten trees were cut down on Reeves street and was updated on what the planning commission discussed this month. Alderman Duffel announced he has built a house outside the city limits and would be moving in next month, which will be his last month on the council.

"I love being on here with you guys and I have really enjoyed it," Duffel said.

Before adjourning the mayor agreed to look into some drainage issues the alderman had brought before the council as well as a request that had been made for a street light.

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