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GENTRY -- The city council in Gentry, at its Jan. 6 regular meeting, approved a rezoning ordinance, appointed committee and commission members and organized for meetings in the new year.

An ordinance was passed on three readings, and with an emergency clause, rezoning property for Steele Development from A-1 (agricultural) to R-2 (medium-density residential), R-3 (high-density residential) and C-2 (general commercial). The land at issue lies west of Crowder Avenue and south of Arkansas Highway 12 (West Main Street). The rezoning will allow the construction of housing units, and commercial properties along Highway 12 in the future.

An ordinance was passed on three readings and with an emergency clause authorizing the mayor and director of finance to enter into a contract with the Gentry Chamber of Commerce for services related to economic development in the city. The annual cost for the services to the city is $40,000.

Services to be provided to the city include economic development marketing for the city; implementing campaigns designed to attract and retain manufacturing, retail and service industries to the city; grant search and writing for city projects; and promoting the city.

Janie Parks, executive director of the Gentry Chamber, reported to the council on $40,000 in grant funds received by the Chamber through a gift from the McKee Family and McKee Foods to the Gentry United Way. Parks said the Chamber plans to use the money to prepare a professional plan for the revitalization of Gentry's Main Street from Arkansas Highway 59 to the city park. She said the chamber was seeking professional services to design a plan so that the Chamber could use that plan to apply for grant funding to pay for work on alleys, parking areas and other renovations. She said there would be future town hall meetings and meetings with business owners to help in the planning process.

A resolution amending the 2019 budget to match actual expenditures was passed. The amendment added $45,452.75 to Capital Improvements, $5,877.80 to the Grant-McGaugh House line item, and $28,581.60 to the Grant-Park line item. Grant money for work on the McGaugh house was budgeted for work in 2020, but some of the work was able to be done in 2019, so some of the grant funds were moved to the 2019 budget. Grant money received in 2018 for tree planting in the park which was not used in 2018 was shifted to 2019 when the trees were purchased and planted. The adjustment in the Capital Improvements fund had previously been approved by council resolution.

Tammie Runyan was reappointed to the Gentry Planning Commission for a new five-year term by resolution. Also appointed by resolution were Josh Coones and Richard Stripling to four-year terms on the Park Advisory Committee.

A meeting schedule for the council in 2020 was approved. Meetings will continue to be held at 6:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, except that the September 2020 meeting will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 8, due to the Labor Day holiday.

Kevin Johnston, Gentry's mayor, gave a number of project updates, including an update on the Dawn Hill East Bridge project.

As reported in the Jan. 1 issue of the Eagle Observer, the go-ahead has been given to the city to put the bridge project contract out for bid.

"We received notification from ARDOT (Arkansas Department of Transportation) to proceed with the advertising for bids," a Dec. 20 email stated, "and have scheduled for the first advertisement to begin Dec. 29 in the Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The bid opening is scheduled for Jan. 22, at 2 p.m. Bid tabulation will be presented at the February council meeting for council consideration and approval," Johnston wrote.

The Dawn Hill East bridge over Flint Creek was closed due to April 2017 floodwaters which overflowed the bridge and undercut its support structure.

Following the 2017 flood, Johnston had reported that "the debris that washed downstream accumulated under the bridge, causing the water to detour around the north abutment of the bridge, which caused scouring and undermining to the support structures of the bridge." With the support structures under the bridge undermined, a corner of the bridge settled and caused the pavement to crack and a hole to open up. The bridge was deemed unsafe for vehicular and foot traffic.

At a November 2018 meeting, Johnston reported that current plans involve rebuilding the bridge in three spans and making the bridge 2 1/2 feet higher than the old bridge, with it designed to be overflowed in a major flood event. He said an earlier plan would have caused a negative impact on upstream properties and he did not wish to cause any additional flooding risks to other property owners along the creek. He said the new plan would have no negative impact on upstream property owners.

With the bid package now approved and being advertised, a contractor will be chosen and the building process will begin. Johnston said the construction of the bridge, once it is underway, would take about 150 days.

The cost of the bridge was estimated to be about $1 million, with the Federal Highway Administration paying 80 percent of those costs. Without waiting and getting plan approval from ArDOT, the city would have been responsible for the full cost of the bridge.

Other updates included the park master plan, the condemnation process at 119 N. Nelson Ave., the Street Aid Project, and the Arkansas Highways 12 and 43 waterline relocation project.

Johnston reported ongoing work on the park master plan. He said the condemnation process for the property at 119 N. Nelson had been placed on hold since the owner has submitted a plan for remediation. He also said the waterline relocation project was all but complete, with state work on the roundabout expected to begin in the spring. He said the street paving project was complete except for a street in which phone lines needed to be moved. That part of the project will be moved to later this year.

The council held some discussion on whether to continue with committee meetings as it had in the past or to combine them into a regular committee of the whole meeting each month. The consensus was not to schedule meetings when they were not needed, so the current arrangement of calling committee meetings as needed has been retained, with the exception of trying to schedule them far enough in advance to allow their dates and times to be published in the newspaper prior to the meetings so the public can be notified and attend.

Editorial on 01/08/2020

Print Headline: Gentry council passes zoning ordinance, makes appointments

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