Mayor unveils plans for Berryville square

Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney last week presented city council members with preliminary plans for a proposed upgrade and remodeling project on the city’s downtown square. The project is still in its early stages, McKinney said, stressing that some elements would remain as part of the space.
Courtesy of City of Berryville

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney gave city council members an initial look at his proposed plan to beautify and update the city’s downtown square during the council’s Jan. 19 meeting at the Berryville Community Center.

The plan incorporates a number of landscaping features, along with construction of new sidewalks, crosswalks, a pavilion and a decorative clock.

“This is something I’ve been working on for quite some time,” McKinney said. “For several years, I’ve had many people talk to me about trying to make the square more user-friendly and a little bit more imaginative or historic thing like we want, and this is something, a preliminary plan, we’ve come up with.”

McKinney shared with the council an artist’s rendering provided by Springdale-based Engineering Services Inc. that included both a proposed design for the square as well as a number of options for lighting, paving stones, sitting walls and shrubbery.

“We’ll leave the veterans area, the memorials, the way they are and maybe even add to it, and we’re going to move the flagpole over there,” McKinney said. “In place of the two fountains, we’ll have a pavilion on one side and a more traditional fountain on the other side.”

The sitting walls, McKinney said, would be constructed out of limestone the city acquired during recent work on Berry Spring, and would run along some of the planned sidewalks, which would be made of decorative paving stones as opposed to plain concrete.

McKinney stressed that some elements on the square would remain, although they would be updated to bring them into harmony with the updated design.

“One thing we’re going to do, the lights up there on the square — they were put there by different organizations — we want to leave those, but we’re going to take them down and have them re-powder-coated and redone and put them back,” McKinney said. “They were donated by different groups. And we’ll leave those plaques on there.”

In addition, after consultation with an arborist, the oak trees on the corners will also remain.

“What we’re going to try to do is leave those four trees and then the hard maples down behind the fence, but some of those older trees, they’re starting to die,” McKinney said. “They’ll come out, but we’ll keep the hard maples and the oaks and we’ll still have plenty of shade.”

During a phone interview Friday, McKinney jokingly said he’d been working on the project for 30 years.

“I’ve been mayor for 32 years,” he said, “but it’s been over probably the last six months and at the end of last year, we got a landscape architect involved.”

McKinney said this initial plan was put together with the help of a number of local residents.

“There’s been a lot of people have looked at it and given suggestions and ideas and stuff,” McKinney said. “It’s kind of based on what I’ve seen in the town and heard people say they want or would like to see on our square over the last few years and kind of gave it to the landscape architect.”

Some funding for the project — approximately $100,000, McKinney said — was already included in the city’s budget and he hopes work could begin as soon as the council gives final approval for the project.

In addition, McKinney said he will be seeking public input as the project progresses.

“We’ll be posting [copies of the artist’s rendering] at the community center and and different places where people can see it,” McKinney said.

In other business, the council also reviewed an initial draft of the amended version of Ordinance 1085, which would amend the city’s existing ordinance regarding the sale of “spiritous alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.”

The ordinance has been the topic of debate during the council’s past three meetings, and stems from a change by the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Board regarding specific language in the ordinance, namely adding the phrase “spiritous liquids” to the definitions.

In addition, the amended ordinance would include a provision for the city to collect an extra 3 percent sales tax on the sale of such beverages, which will be allowed only in restaurants, defined as “any business that derives at least 50 percent of its gross revenues from the sale of prepared food items.”

Rusty Dycus, owner of Town & Country Bowling Center and a number of other local businesses, was in attendance and spoke in favor of the amended liquor ordinance.

“It’s a big deal,” Dycus said. “It’s a big part of our sales. We do watch and we try and keep an eye on what’s going on with our patrons and try not to get anybody drunk or anything like that, but it’s a big deal. Especially with COVID right now, it’s a big part of our income. So I just want to encourage you to vote yes on that.”

Council members tabled the measure, pending a final draft.

The council also heard from Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos, who delivered his department’s monthly and year-end activity reports, which indicated a nearly 27 percent increase in traffic citations over 2019, a modest increase — from 851 to 867 — in reported offenses and an 82 percent clearance rate in criminal matters.

Bartos’ report did indicate that his department’s collection of fines and bonds had been reduced, falling nearly 50 percent from 2019’s total, dropping from $25,117 to $12,505 in 2020. The number of reported motor vehicle accidents was also down, with 159 last year as opposed to 186 in 2019.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Berryville Community Center.

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