Governmental Affairs – “We bring good things to the Village!”

The Hot Springs Village Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) met on Friday, June 3, 2022, at the Ponce de Leon Center. Chair Bob Pettey said there was a nice group of visitors, and many of them were committee applicants. The GAC is almost finished with the interviewing and evaluation process and soon there will be new committee members. GM Kelly Hale broaches the subject of the Village reaping some benefits from tax money paid. J.P. Keith Keck reminds the committee that property taxes may soon be increasing for those not disabled or 65 and over. Director Derrick Harris was a special guest from the Tri-Lakes Metropolitan and Planning Organization (MPO). All of this and much more are included in this report.

Guest Speaker Derrick Harris, MPO Director, Tri-Lakes Metropolitan Planning Organization

The Tri-Lakes MPO consists of eleven board members and a full-time director, overseeing federal and state transportation projects in the Hot Springs area.

Harris said the Tri-Lakes MPO is the regional transportation agency, required or mandated by the federal government in order for the area to obtain federal dollars for transportation projects,

The Hot Springs area MPO started in 2003. Based on the 2000 census, the area was considered urbanized with 50,000 or more people. Because this population requirement was met, the Tri-lakes MPO was born.

Derrick Harris, Tri-Lakes MPO Director

The eleven board members on the Tri-Lakes MPO consist of local elected officials of Garland County, the City of Hot Springs, Mountain Pine, Fountain Lake, Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association, Hot Springs Metro Partnership, ARDOT, and Hot Springs County.

There is also a technical committee consisting of engineers, planners, airport directors, transit directors, etc. All of the Tri-Lakes MPO items are presented to the technical committee to receive technical recommendations.

The MPOs are funded with an 80% federal and 20% local split. The MPO has a metropolitan and transportation comprehensive plan that looks out over 20 years considering issues such as trends, congestion, trails, transit, etc. They evaluate these items against resources they know will be available and come up with a prioritized ‘cost feasible plan.’ ARDOT incorporates all of the MPO’s information with its own.

The MPO doesn’t manage projects. That is up to ARDOT or the city or whatever representative agency that will complete the work. The MPO makes sure all required documents are updated so funds can be dispersed. The MPO works closely with partner agencies and mainly deals with large-scale, U.S. state highway projects. The MPO can also help local agencies with technical needs or analyzing data.

The Tri-Lakes MPO is hosted by West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District, They front the cost for the Tri-Lakes MPO, as the grant funds must be spent first, and then reimbursement is received.

Harris said that there are a lot of projects in progress for such a small urban area and that we are very fortunate to get the funds we do.

General Manager Asks Harris About Grants for the Village

Hale said to Harris, “We appreciate you being here today. You spoke about grants. What specifically can you help Hot Springs Village with, on grants?”

Harris responded, “It’s a private organization. Inside the gates, it makes it very difficult for any type of federal funding.” Because of gates, grants for the Village are difficult. For any of the projects leading in and out [of the Village], getting people to and from your gates would be the most beneficial. “There is lots of new trail money [for outside the gates],” stated Harris.

Hale said, “We appreciate the roads. We can take our tax revenue into the cities. What we are looking for is what can be done. We understand we are a private community, but with the economic impact that we have here in this area, it is close to $400 Million a year. We’re just looking for what help we can get to be able to change some things and maybe some language or some understanding of things that we might need help with, from an environmental standpoint or any other. We a city within itself and we take a lot of strain off of the state and counties by not adding that impact back. We’re just curious if there is any help you can give us. We understand the private part, but at the same time, we are a large contributor to the area. We’d just like some help with some things, possibly. If you have an opportunity, I’d like to sit down and talk to you.”

Harris said he would love to talk to the GM. “To be honest with you, I’ve never truly explored. ” Harris said it was very unique to have such a large property owners’ association with such a rich history in an urban area, especially. “I haven’t ever really looked into it too much. It has always been federal, federal-aid highways, which are always maintained and operated by local governments. I understand the argument you are making and I’ve heard it several times. It makes sense to me. I’d love to talk to you to see what else we can do. From technical expertise, we can offer any kind of technical expertise or help with grant writing, things like that. Anything mapmaking. Anything like that.”

Hale said we are a large contributor and would like some help. Would like to talk to Derrick Harris privately. Said he would love to talk to Hale. Can offer any kind of technical expertise, grant writing, etc. Grants are complicated and Harris will have to look into it.

Sam Sacco – Democratic and Republican Candidate Forum in September and Recognition for Senator Sample

September 20, 2022, from noon to 6:00 PM a forum for both Democratic and Republic candidates will be set up. set up candidate forums. Keith Keck will notify the Republicans and Steven Rittenmeyer will notify the Democrats. Sacco said we need to thank Stephanie Heffer for arranging the forum.

Sacco wants to invite Senator Sample to a GAC meeting (possibly in September) and show appreciation to him for his service. He has worked closely with the committee.

Chair Pettey Report

Pettey said he attended the Tri-Lakes MPO meeting and found it interesting. He was able to meet the Fountain Lake Mayor and some of the Quorum Court.

Board Chair, Joanie Corry, Update

Corry announced that Bruce Caverly will be Tri-Lakes MPO liaison.

General Manager, Kelly Hale Update

Hale stated that we are currently working with the State and both counties on a new 911 system. “Basically, we are going from an analog system to a digital system, which will give us better accuracy.”

The biggest improvement is the new system will give the responders a GPS position of the caller. This is the largest enhancement.

Update on Broadband

Keith Keck said that Aristotle Unified Communications is still waiting to see if they will receive money for the Village. The Aristotle grant is for Saline County.

Garland County/Hot Springs

Stephanie Heffer reported that Judge Mahoney said that lighting for the roundabout will be installed in the summer.

Legislative Affairs

Sam Sacco said that Representative Richard McGrew was not able to be present at the meeting due to a family engagement, but he reported that he had a very good discussion with Kelly Hale regarding ways to iron out some of our problems. McGrew said Senator Sample would be missed as they worked closely together.

Keith Keck said that property reappraisals are due to come out in July, after the GAC meeting. Pettey said it is important for the appraisers to come and address the committee.

“There is going to be some gnashing of teeth when the new appraisals come out. I think the more information we can get out about the reassessments [of property], the better,” stated Pettey. Taxes are frozen for those 65 and over, but you must enroll for this. Per Arkansas state law, real property is reassessed every five years. Appeals can be made to the Board of Equalization.

Larry Raney, Garland County Justice of the Peace

J.P. Larry Raney (Garland) was re-elected.

Raney said, “Sam, I think you are exactly right when it comes to Bill Sample…We ought to recognize him. I like Matt. We could make a good friend of him and get him on our team, but I mourn the loss of Bill.”

J.P. Raney said that the biggest problem in Garland County is employee retention. The county is running behind other areas on salaries, but the county does offer some good perks. Due to staffing issues, two sections of the jail are closed.

Trails – survey crews have been on old HWY 88 (Springs Street). They have marked highlight spots with red flags. This marking is an indication of where the trail might go. When the new bridge is built, Raney wants to save the existing bridge to be used as a pedestrian bridge. Raney said that the trails are starting to come together.

Keith Keck, Saline County Justice of the Peace

J.P. Keith Keck said that the Central Region Metro Plan has committed to spending 50% of its dollars on regional greenways. This entails all the greenways and trails for the region. The Village is on the far edge of the Central Region Metro Plan. The best access to HSV comes through Garland County. “To try to put a trail or freeway through the Highway 5 corridor will be cost-prohibitive at this time,” stated Keck.

Keck shared that Saline County is having trouble staffing the jail. This begs the question, that if you can’t adequately man the detention center, why would expand it?

The Saline County Quorum Court will hold a meeting at the Village on Tuesday, July 5 at 6:30 PM. The location was not mentioned.

Melissa Speers (Jessieville School District Superintendent)

Superintendent Speers said, “Graduation went well.” They had a busy two weeks week with awards.

The plans for the summer are for staff to work on projects that can’t be done during the school year. Summer is always a busy time preparing for the kids to come back in August. They will be resurfacing the running track. Speers said they are anxious to get the students’ test scores back. Staff reached hard to reach students in quarantine. She said she cannot sing enough praises for the staff. School starts back on August 22. Teachers come back on Aug 10. 60:00

Plans for July GAC Meeting

The next meeting is Friday, July 1, to be held at the Ouachita Room at the Ponce de Leon Center. This meeting will cover Orientation and Organization. Petty has asked General Arwood and the current ex officio member, Bob Shoemaker, to present a background on the committee at the July meeting.

The monthly Member reports will also be discussed at the July meeting. “I think it is time we took a look at them and decided, ‘are these the reports we need every month? Are there some that are missing? Are there some that could be revamped?’, explained Pettey.

Pettey said the July meeting would also be time to assign the GAC committee Members their areas of concentration.

Report by Cheryl Dowden