McKinney addresses concerns over proposed fence near pond

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Berryville Mayor Tim McKinney took a few minutes during last Tuesday’s meeting of the Berryville City Council to answer questions from citizens regarding the city’s plans for safety upgrades at George Pond.

In response to requests from residents near the pond — a popular fishing hole for both children and adults, as well as home to numerous ducks and geese — the city decided to designate a short stretch of Hanby Street as one-way and is considering adding a chain link fence on the park side of the street to prevent unexpected foot traffic.

“We had some concerns pressed about safety around the pond in general,” McKinney said. “One thing we looked at is, in the area now where there’s basically just a rope, putting in a chain link fence to keep kids and animals from darting out in the road like we’ve got on all our other parks. It’s the most economical and the most effective and easiest to maintain.

Tim Mckinney

“It was just a safety thing for after we received complaints from the neighborhood about the safety.”

Some citizens were concerned that the proposed fence would be installed around the entire park. McKinney stressed that, while all other city parks are fenced in, that likely won’t be the case at George Pond.

“The fence is strictly a safety situation,” McKinney said. “It came from the residents over there that expressed those concerns. That’s why we were looking at putting in a fence. It’s not set in stone yet. We’ve got chain link fence around every other park in Berryville, if you want to go out and look.”

The proposed fence would only be installed on the side near the gazebo, where a low yellow rope is the only divider between the park and the road.

“You know how a 3-year-old breaks and runs or a dog breaks and runs,” McKinney said. “That rope doesn’t really stop them. A chain link fence is the most effective thing we’ve found for safety and to maintain and still have people able to see the park.”

McKinney said no final decision has been reached.

“The people over there that are concerned about safety want it,” McKinney said. “If they’ve changed their minds, we’ll just look at it and see.”

As for the one-way street and the accompanying decrease in speed limit, McKinney said he’s requested additional police patrols in the area to drive home the changes.

“They’re going to meet some of our policemen real soon if they don’t [slow down],” McKinney said.

In regard to the project as a whole, McKinney called it a “tough situation.”

“We want to be mindful of the safety of our kids,” McKinney said, “and that’s why we’re doing whatever we can to make it safe for them. There’s no perfect solution, that’s for sure. We’re going to do the best we can to make it as safe as we can.”

In other business, the council began preliminary discussions on offering premium pay to the city’s essential workers for the extra duties they performed during the pandemic. The plan would be essentially the same as one approved earlier this year for Berryville School District employees, paid for by fund the city received as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. McKinney said the city’s first installment totaled approximately $573,000.

“We’ve got this CARES Act money and one way you can use that is to go back and give essential employees some premium pay,” McKinney said. “We’ve looked at several different options and need to decide if we want to do that. We looked at 75 cents added to that time period and 50 cents an hour for that time period.”

McKinney said that, if approved at the maximum amount, the premium pay would use approximately $75,000 of the CARES funding.

“Truthfully, I’ve got mixed emotions about it,” McKinney said. “I know we do have some essential workers, but, you know, they all received the same checks that the rest of the country received during the pandemic, the stimulus checks.”

McKinney said there was also some discussion about giving employees who chose to be vaccinated some sort of monetary incentive.

“They don’t miss work and they don’t have to go into quarantine as much,” McKinney said.

He went on to explain that the bulk of the money the city received would be used to help finance a water supply project in the city’s industrial park, largely because bids for many projects have gone up considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council also heard a monthly activity report from the city’s Saunders Museum, which continues to see increases in visitation and monies received.

The report, issued for the month of August, showed the museum hosted 180 visitors and took in $1,036.25, including $854 in admission fees. Two years ago, the museum hosted 157 visitors in August and took in $789. Last year, the museum delayed its opening until Aug. 17 and saw 43 visitors and took in $219.75.

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

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