BY MELANIE WADE –
Mena City Council held a special called meeting on Thursday, October 19, 2017, at noon, to discuss a funding request from Mena Water and Sewer Department and also an additional project in the current renovations to City Hall.
Charles Pitman, Manager for Mena Water Utilities, explained to the council that additional funding is needed to complete a sewer line project in order for construction on North Morgan Street, which will run from Holly Harshman Elementary to Hwy. 71 next to Mena Ford, to begin. The North Morgan Street project has been in the works for several years. Mena City Council had approved an initial cost of the project, however, since so many years have passed without the state beginning the project, prices have increased and the original bid almost tripled. Since the increase was noted last spring, Mena City Council and Mena Public Schools have been working with state architects to lower cost, and also hope to add a traffic light at the intersection, once the road is built.
In the meantime, Pitman and crew continue to work on their portion of the project but have been slowed by a large bed of rock that lays beneath the surface where they are trying to lay the new lines. Pitman said that the original lines meander through adjacent properties but need to be moved.
“We have been hammering on rock for five months now. It took us four months to do 1,300 feet [in rock], where it took three weeks to do 1,000 feet [before hitting rock],” Pitman told the council. Hitting the large rock shelf has caused them to rent equipment at a rate of approximately $10,000 per month, versus the original equipment estimate of $5,000 per month. The rented equipment has sped up the process some, but it is still taking a large amount of time, and creating overtime for workers.
Council member James Earl Turner said he tried his rock busting equipment at the site and although it worked, it was very slow going, and couldn’t reach the depth needed. Turner said the equipment being rented is worth the cost. He added, “We discussed doing this project even if we don’t do North Morgan Street because of the benefits of flow.
“We created the North Morgan project,” said Council member Andy Brown. “I think we should reimburse them for the cost.” In order to reimburse the Sewer Department for the increased cost and labor wages, City Council voted to transfer $150,000 to the Sewer Department from their portion of the special county tax. The original estimate for the sewer line project was $130,000, with the City providing $35,000 and the rest coming from the Sewer Department. As for the North Morgan Street project construction, the City is awaiting proposed cost savings from the Arkansas Highway Commission and the addition of a traffic light to the plans.
Also at the meeting, Council members heard a request to add an additional project to the ongoing renovations at City Hall. That original project was estimated at $8,126, according to the winning bid, submitted by MSBI, Inc., of Mena. Painting is ongoing at this time, however, a new idea has been launched, and one that will bring the building closer to its original glory, and a key reason why the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although City Hall has elevated ceilings, a ‘drop ceiling’ was installed several years ago, which lowered the height, and caused a decrease in lighting. The City Hall entry that welcomes its visitors has long been hidden in the dark with only two lights in the large area. The new idea, which was approved by City Council on Thursday, is to remove the drop ceiling in the entry to allow natural light from the large second floor windows to pour in. Officials cited the more welcoming atmosphere, as well as eliminating the need for additional lighting fixtures. A fresh coat of paint will also be applied to the top floor area that is uncovered. The project is expected to cost approximately $8,000 to $10,000.
The next regular meeting of Mena City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14, 2017, at 6 p.m. inside Mena City Hall.