Problems with I-30

At a Hot Springs Village Governmental Affairs Meeting, Committee Member Karen Crowson said she attended an ARDOT update on the I-30 Construction Project. “It was pretty enlightening. The director did a really good job of explaining what happened. ARDOT is still withholding $21 Million in payment. The contractor, Johnson Brothers, has filed a claim against the highway department to extend the completion date so they can receive payment. “Weather issues such as low temperatures and rain caused an epic failure on the westbound traffic on the portion of the roadway that has not been resurfaced. Johnson Brothers was not maintaining that roadway as they were required to do.

The contractor ran into some issues with the old concrete and other things, which caused an extension of 155 days to the original time estimate.

The director of Oaklawn said, “This is killing us. We’re suffering business-wise because of this. And now you have one to two million people coming into the area in April for the eclipse. How are you going to handle that? Why can’t you resurface the part that needs resurfacing and take down the barricades for now?”

Representative Richard McGrew said, “The company was thoroughly vetted, and no red flags came up during the process. Also, there was a performance bond of $158 M, so you know the insurance company vetted them very well. They are considering calling that bond…I-30 is unlike a regular construction project. You can’t just stop it and shut it down for a while. It has to stay open.”

According to Connect Arkansas, The I-30 “project proposes to enhance one of the most traveled roads in Arkansas. When complete, the improvements will enhance the transportation connection through central Arkansas, increase capacity, and improve traveler safety.

Chair Bob Pettey said that “government contracts are a strange animal. It brings to mind when Alan Shepard was asked as he sat on top of the Mercury 7 Rocket for the first time. ‘What were you thinking?’ Shepard responded, ‘I was thinking I was sitting on top of a multi-million dollar machine [where the bid for] each and every part was submitted by the lowest bidder.'”

GM Kelly Hale and Senator Matt McKee’s report to the GAC

Click here to read GM Kelly Hale’s Address to the GAC.

Click here to read Arkansas Senator Matt Mckee’s solar eclipse concerns.

Hot Springs Bypass signage update

Richard McGrew, Arkansas State Representative, gave an update on signage on the new Hot Springs Bypass. He said he has been told that those signs will come down. It is in litigation, and an injunction has been filed to stop the advertising. A lawsuit has been filed to remove the signs. The sign company answered the injunction, which ARDOT answered back before it went to the commission for a ruling. It is expected to be appealed and the legal process to go through. “The sign company is asking for – I have heard rumors of $5 M. Obviously, they were contacted by ARDOT and Garland County when they started and told to stop. To me, what is going on is terrible. I have been assured that the signs will come down. That is one of Arkansas’s most beautiful pieces of highway, and I support keeping it that way.”

Larry Raney, Garland County Quorum Court Judge report

Low temperatures produced high electric bills. – Due to high energy usage during the cold period, some people complained to the electric companies that their meters are not working correctly. McGrew said you can purchase a small meter to verify the accuracy of your meter.

Larry Raney, Garland County Quorum Court Justice of the Peace, said the county experienced a lot of road damage from the ice storm. “it is just unbelievable. Everywhere you look – even some of the new paving, where the water infiltrated – it just lifted it right up. I don’t know what it is going to take to fix it. I have to talk to the Judge about that. Right now, all we are trying to do is fix potholes so we can get traffic flowing [better].

Raney said we must be prepared for a lot of overtime during the eclipse event. “Hot Springs is a tourist town. Sometimes when the tourists drink, they do things they shouldn’t do. We expect a lot more phone calls than normal.”

Raney said during the first three weeks of the year, the Quorum Courts office received 120 calls. “That is unbelievable!, exclaimed the JP.

Connecting First Responders Communication Systems -“We are trying to get all of the responders, including the school district responders, to be on the same communication wavelength. This will take a while to do. It has to do with the interconnection of the different types of systems. I don’t know exactly how it will play out yet, but I do know that is one of the things that is high on our agenda to achieve this year,” stated Raney.

Captain Jayson Neighbors was appointed as Garland County Coroner – Hale said that Captain Jayson Neighbors resigned from the Hot Springs Village Fire Department to accept the Garland County acting coroner position. Hale said that although this was unfortunate for the village, “I am very happy for him.”

Raney said that of the four people interviewed, Neighbors “stood head and shoulders above everybody else. I think it was a great choice.”

Keith Keck, Saline County Quorum Court Judge report

Keck said that outside the east side of the village, communications with first responders are difficult. Sometimes, in some areas, radios and cell phones do not work.

Keck said Metroplan doesn’t only talk about roads. They had a good discussion about Act 605. “It was interesting hearing from local mayors about how they are dealing with Act 605. Some of the smaller towns…are in the same situation we are in [regarding how to deal with Act 605 ramifications on their water systems.]

The Owensville Cutoff paving project is in progress.

Melissa Speers, Jessieville School District Superintendent report

Speers said the Jessieville School will be a staging site for the eclipse if needed. We have planned for the entrances to be closed off. We don’t have the staff to manage the campus and watch out for vandalism and other misbehavior.

Due to the weather, Jessieville students missed five school days and had one late start day. The five missed days will be made up at the end of the year. As it stands right now, June 3, 2024, will be the last school day of the year. If more inclement weather events lead to additional missed school days, we must consider extending some school days. School day extensions must be in one-hour increments.

Speers said they have started building the school calendar for next year.

Enrollment is down. The decreased enrollment is due to students moving outside of the state. Speers shared that homeschooling impacts enrollment more than any other factor.

For some of the Jessieville School District staff, it is time to retire, which is the reason for turnover. Sometimes people see turnover as something is wrong with the school, but that is not the case here. “We are going to have a lot of teacher openings in the coming months,” said Speer.

Keith Keck on candidate forums for the general election

Keck is planning a forum in the village for the candidates in the general election. “I plan to schedule those for the first week in October,” Keck said.

Saline County Broadband Committee actions – Keith Keck

Keck said that the Saline County Broadband Committee met last week with Arkansas state judge Matthew Brumley. The Committee will soon release the official BEAD* Map. The BEAD Map will have a dot for each household in the village. Certain colors will designate certain things. Some colors will receive broadband tax money. Other areas on the BEAD Map still need work. The intent is to assign all the neighborhoods the correct BEAD color, so they will also be eligible for the money assigned for broadband improvement.

White papers help with communication.

Keck said that white papers were used four or five years ago to help with key communication points. “We always had a minimum of three topics. The topics were usually roads, broadband” and something else. Keck proposes the committee return to the use of white papers. Doing this will help simplify the key points the board or staff should make regarding certain subjects. White papers have been used effectively by governments for years.

*(Arkansas Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program)

By Cheryl Dowden

Hot Springs Village GAC Meeting February 2 2024
GAC Meeting February 2024

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