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— A new city hall is in the works for the town of Highfill, with council members approving $250,000 to complete the project.

Guy Knuth, of Henry Architecture in Rogers, presented preliminary plans for a 3,600-square-foot building to serve as the town's city hall. The building itself, according to Knuth, is estimated to cost between $250,000 and $270,000, with utility hookups excluded.

The town had already approved $50,000 to be used for dirt work, design and engineering fees. At Thursday's meeting, an additional $250,000 was approved.

Plans for the building will include some deductive alternates to make certain the first phase of the city hall can be completed for the approved amount. The design, which includes office space and a meeting room, also includes a plan for future expansion of the building as the town grows.

Preparing the site for the new building is likely to require trading some top soil for red dirt, according to Highfill Mayor Chris Holland. Another option mentioned by Holland was digging a pond for someone in exchange for the red dirt the town will need before a concrete slab can be poured.

Discussion was held on whether or not to include a sprinkler system in the building plans. Knuth estimated adding a sprinkler system would cost $1.50 per square foot.

Though the current building design and occupancy would not require the added system, Fire Chief Jeremy Jackson suggested the city consider the system for fire safety purposes. Insurance savings was also suggested as a factor to consider in a final decision on whether or not to include sprinklers in the building.

The new building is needed, Holland said, because the town has run out of space for its offices and has no place for storing city files and records.

"It sure would enhance the appearance of the town and solve the storage problem," said council member Richard Boles, adding that it would serve the city's needs for the next 20 years or more.

The money for the project will come out of the town's cash management fund as it is needed. The fund currently has more than $600,000.

Council member Sandy Evans voiced concerns that the expenditure would reduce the balance of the cash management fund to $300,000.

"We always want to keep at least $500,000 in the cash management fund," Evans said. "This would take it down to $300,000."

Holland said that he would build the fund back up again, explaining that he had built up the fund from $220,000 to $1.2 million - before the sewer project - in the five years he has served as mayor.

Holland said the town would received $150,000 in tax revenue in November which would go back into the cash management fund.

With the current economic downturn, Holland said the town could get the most building for its money if it acted now, before costs rise again.

"I'm all for it," council member Keven Varner said. "It will be good for the town."

Evans cast the sole vote against the expenditure. Bole, Varner, Toby Lester and James Wiand voted in favor of allocating the money for the city hall project.

Once the dirt work is completed and final plans are prepared, the project will be put out for bids. It was estimated that the project could be underway by the end of November.

The building site for the new city hall is along Arkansas Highway 12, just to the west of the current Highfill Police Station.

In other business, the council passed an ordinance setting the town's speed limit at 30 mph unless otherwise posted. In a second ordinance, the speed limit on those portions of Gailey Hollow Road which are within Highfill's city limits was set at 45 mph, corresponding to the speed limit on portions of the road regulated by the county.

In two resolutions, Sandy Evans was re-appointed to her posts on the town's water committee and sewer committee. She was appointed to a two-year term on each committee.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/16/2009

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