Money for city projects: McKinney says tax extension makes sense for BV

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mayor Tim McKinney told the Berryville City Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday that he will continue preparations to seek an extension of the city’s existing half-cent sales tax, with the council’s blessing.

Council members expressed their support for the idea.

The tax originally was approved by voters in a June 2011 special election, with a 24-month sunset clause. Two years later, voters in another special election approved extending the tax for another two years, and a five-year extension got voters’ OK in a special election in May 2015.

The tax is currently set to expire in 2020. Extending it an additional five years would allow the city to issue approximately $7 million in bonds that could be used to finance a variety of projects, McKinney said. Otherwise, the mayor said the city would have to wait until it has the cash in hand to move forward on projects such as adding a pump station at the industrial park, installing more sidewalks, investing in new equipment for the police department and making long-term repairs to the city’s outdoor pool.

“If we do the bond issue, we’d have $7 million in our pocket and we could do a lot of these projects,” McKinney said. “… I really think, just from an economic standpoint and what the city needs, this would be a good thing.”

In other business, McKinney told the council that 323 households have signed up for the city’s rural water project, and engineers will soon begin the design phase of the project. Once the design phase is complete, households will no longer be able to sign up for the project at the introductory price of $100.

“They need to get signed up if they want to take advantage of the bargain price that’s being offered on the front end,” McKinney said.

The council unanimously approved Ordinance 1004, which adjusts the city’s operating budget to balance certain categories. The council suspended the rules to have the ordinance read for a second and third time.

The council also gave a unanimous thumbs up to Ordinance 1005, waiving competitive bidding for equipment for a new playground at the Berryville Community Center. McKinney said the community center has raised about $100,000 for the project. He said the most practical approach to the project would be to solicit ideas from at least two qualified companies, based on the funds available.

“We’re going to tell them: ‘We’ve got this much money. Give us a design for what you can do for this amount of money.’ ”

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council got a brief update from Jeff Hatley, mobility manager and public information officer for Ozark Regional Transit. Hatley told the council that service in Berryville was not affected by a January fire that destroyed 20 buses at ORT’s bus yard in Springdale. Carroll County is served by ORT minivans that are parked at a separate location.

Hatley said ridership was down slightly in Berryville in January 2017, with 84 rides during the month compared with 92 in January 2016.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at Berryville City Hall.

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