HSV Governmental Affairs Committee’s slogan is “We bring good things to the Village!” The committee does this by advising and assisting the POA Board to enhance Village relationships with area, local, state, and federal government agencies, elected officials, and abutting school districts. It is all about building relationships with entities outside the Village.

Special Guest Austin Coleman introduced himself at the Friday, March 1, 2024, Governmental Affairs Committee Meeting. Coleman, Field Representative and Constituent Services for Congressman Bruce Westerman, said he was there to listen and learn.

Special Guest Speaker and Saline County Judge Matt Brumley updated the committee on items of interest in Saline County. The judge said it has been a pleasure to serve alongside Justice Keith Keck, who has worked tirelessly. “While Keck is leaving the position, his participation and involvement will not leave,” stated Brumley.

Brumley declared that volunteerism is important, setting Saline County and Central Arkansas apart. “No matter your views or thoughts, human beings like to be involved with one another.”

Judge Brumley feels it is important to recognize, honor, and memorialize our veterans. In Saline County, formal recognition occurs three times a year on the courthouse lawn. There is also a 9/11 event for all first responders on the lawn. In March of 2023, they hosted the 50th Vietnam Memorial gathering. “I just wanted it to be great, and it was!” exclaimed the Judge.

The Veterans will be recognized and honored on March 26 at the Veterans Memorial on the Saline County Courthouse lawn on the corner of North Main Street and West Sevier Street.

The Saline County Old River Bridge was dismantled some years ago. Judge Jeff Arey and the Saline County Quorum Court obtained grants to rebuild the bridge at the same location. After reconstruction, this will be the oldest bridge in the state, still at the original location. It is part of the 60-mile Southwest Trail. The bridge and trail are part of a spoke that will run to historic downtown Benton and help with economic development.

On March 7, at 10:00 a.m. at the end of Airline Drive in Benton, a groundbreaking ceremony will mark the start of the bridge reconstruction. Brumley feels the 135-year-old bridge will be a destination for people nationwide.

Broadband Communication – Brumley said Villager JP Keck set an example for other communities by taking ownership of identifying underserved broadband areas in HSV. Brumley said they are working hard on broadband communication.

Keck explained that there are some underserved broadband areas we have not identified.

Roads and bridges – Brumley said he and other individuals attended a meeting with Lorie Tudor, Director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) regarding a five and a half mile stretch of road in Saline County on Interstate 30 that needed repair. They asked for the hourly timing of the work to not occur during the morning rush hour.

Johnson Brothers was repairing and pouring new concrete on this section of I 30. ARDOT has assumed responsibility for working with the contractors on repairs so that Johnson Brothers can concentrate on the new concrete work.

Brumley stated they are working on the improvement or replacement of eleven bridges.

The Owensville Cutoff was resurfaced.

Consolidation of Saline County 911 services nears completion as Bryant comes onboard in March 5. He said they would do everything possible to help with emergency communication in the Village.

Brumley met with Beth Whited, President of Union Pacific Railroad, to discuss safety and accessibility challenges on the Southwest Trail.

Water – Brumley is working with other water providers to coordinate redundancies and contingencies within their and Saline County’s systems.

The new Saline County Communications Director, Trevor Villines, is doing well.

Chairman’s Report – Bob Pettey

Pettey said he recently gave the semi-annual committee report to the Board of Directors. Click here to read this report. Pettey said, “The good news was, Keith Keck is now a full-fledged member of the GAC. The bad news is Bob Shoemaker is not here.” Shoemaker, an original member of the GAC, is resigning from the committee.

Kevin Sexton, Director of Business Development, Land and Community Affairs

Sexton enthused, “The more I travel to the huge metropolitan areas, the more I am so thankful to be an Arkansan and a native of Saline County! When I go to golf and retirement shows, you can see that many of these folks want to relocate.”

Richard McGrew

McGrew said he would be glad when the elections were over. He said there is a lot of misinformation and untruths out there. “Most people don’t do their due diligence and look into who they vote for, but I think Hot Springs Village does a much better job than most.”

McGrew stated that Garland County met with ARDOT, and they are happy with how Lorie Tudor, Director of the Arkansas Department of Transportation, handled the Interstate 30 repair and construction.

Larry Raney, Garland County Justice of the Peace

Raney remarked that there was no official business to report on. Recently, a disagreement at a meeting became heated. Raney said, “I hated to see that. We should be able to talk about our differences and work through them one way or another.” The gentleman who was upset has offered his resignation.

There has been “talk” about installing guardrails on the new bypass. He said this is in consideration and hopefully he would have more information by the next GAC meeting.

Court cases protesting billboard advertisements on the new bypass have been filed. Garland County has mailed all adjacent property owners, telling them the billboards are illegal. Some original advertisers removed their signs, including Oaklawn and Sunset Grill.

Keith Keck, Saline County Justice of the Peace

Keck stated that the Saline County Accessor is coming to the Village once a month to make it easier for Villagers to pay their property tax bills.

July 2022 was the last time the Saline County Quorum Court met in the Village. The Quorum Court is willing to return, but needs a formal invitation from the POA.

The Ouachita Speaker Series is sponsoring Shane Broadway and Doyle Webb in May. The presentation will be on “Arkansas Changing Politics.”

The Garland County Candidate Forums will be on October 2 at the Coronado Community Center. The Saline County Candidate Forum will be on October 3 at the Ouachita Room at the Ponce de Leon Center. More details will be coming on the Candidate Forums.

Keck said he emailed the committee members for suggested white paper topics. The white papers aim to provide key talking points on subjects such as sewer, water and roads, to community leaders, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Michael Murphy, Fountain Lake School District Superintendent

Murphy shared that they are going to court regarding a federal desegregation law put in place in 1989. Murphy explained, “When School Choice is rendered, district-to-district, we are required by law to look at race as a component of the selection in allowing a student to go from one district to the next. Oftentimes, we deny a family the opportunity to come to Fountain Lake…based on racial demographics that exist. You just have to tell them that they are not allowed to come to your school based on their race, and that never sets well with any family.”

The future Fountain Lake School Superintendent, Darin Landry will be in training for smoother transition. He is set to take the full superintendent job in July. Murphy plans to bring Landry to the next couple of GAC Meetings.

The next GAC Meeting will be on April 5, 2024, at 9:00 a.m. in the Ouachita Room at the Ponce De Leon Center.

( L-R) Stephanie Heffer, Rep. Richard McGrew, JP Keith Keck

By Cheryl Dowden

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