Little Rock Council Sets Allocations for Mileage Extension Vote, Talks Size of Slim Parks

the Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday approved a resolution that sets out the allocation of money that would be generated if voters approve the renewal of a mile capital improvement.

The council has spent weeks calling a special election on August 9 to ask voters to extend the 3 mills, which are due to start at the end of the year. At its last regular meeting, the council agreed to proceed with two 20-year bond issues, likely in 2022 and 2026, to be repaid by the city in 16 years. The bonds would generate approximately $154 million.

Director Capi Peck successfully tabled a motion on Tuesday to amend the resolution outlining the allowances, moving 5% of that City Manager Bruce Moore had proposed to be spent on streets and drainage, and add only 10% to the parks allocation.

The amended resolution provides for the following breakdowns, which would be returned to voters as separate voting questions:

*Streets: $38.5 million (25%)

*Drainage: $38.5 million (25%)

*Fire apparatus: $18.6 (12%)

*District Court Building: $8 million (5%)

*Parks and zoo: $28.4 million for parks and $7 million for the zoo (23%)

*Port expansion: $15 million (10%)

Peck’s motion attracted an unlikely group of supporters: Vice Mayor Lance Hines, Dean Kumpuris, At-Large Director, At-Large Director Antwan Phillips, Virgil Miller and Ken Richardsonwho originally voted present, but changed his vote after it was 4-5-1.

Kathy Webb, who attempted to comment before the vote on the amendment, said after the vote she had consistently heard from voters saying they most wanted to see improvements to the streets and drainage. The parks department regularly receives grants for improvement projects; streets and drainage projects not so much, she noted.

The city does not maintain all of its parks. “The cities in the country that are ranked among the best parks are not the ones with the most square footage,” she said.

Doris Wright, a frequent critic of the park service’s lack of programming, continued on the theme, “Right now, I feel like we have a mismanaged parks system.” She said she’s also concerned that much of the money generated from the mileage expansion will go to the new park the city is expected to get from the 30 Crossing Highway project, while its downtown community center lands -west continue to be ignored.

Joan Adcock, Director of At-Large monitoring. “I know parks are more important, but I think infrastructure is more important,” she said.

Kumpuris, who recently tried unsuccessfully to convince the board of trustees to propose an additional 3/8 sales tax, echoed what he said then: the city’s needs are immense – $1 billion for infrastructure improvements, he said — and that bond money isn’t going to come close to covering everything. “We need to be a bigger, growing city,” to increase the tax base. He said adding money to parks could help with that and public safety. But he also echoed Webb and Wright, saying the city had too many parks and needed to look at them carefully.

hines said he was sorry that the council was in such disagreement. “We’re not all going to get what we want out of this as far as fixing everything,” he said. Likely directed at Adcock, he said saying parks aren’t part of the infrastructure was short-sighted.

peck said in his Ward 4, streets and drainage weren’t as much of an issue as in other parts of town. His constituents repeatedly told him they wanted quality of life improvements, like improvements to parks. But she agreed the council needed to take a hard look at the parks system. “I totally support selling some parks and taking over the ones we have,” she said.

Council is expected to consider an ordinance that would call the special election at its next regular meeting on May 17.

James V. Hayes