BY MELANIE BUCK –
City streets and sidewalks will make up for a large piece of Mayor George McKee’s slate this year, including a long awaited sidewalk streetscape project on Mena Street and a road that is hoped to alleviate much of the school traffic near Holly Harshman Elementary.
The completion of the streetscape sidewalk project has been on the back burner since reserve funds were used to repair some of the damage from the April 2009 tornado, as opposed to waiting on FEMA funding that can take years. Now that funds are available, the Mayor said the project is on the front lines again.
The new sidewalks will match the rest of Mena Street, complete with brick pavers. The blocks to be worked on will be both sides of North Mena Street between Maple Street and Sherman Avenue. Township Builders of Little Rock submitted the low bid on the project, which was 22% over original estimates. However, because of grants that are connected to the project, the City is waiting on a concurrence from the state Highway Department to accept the bid. The Highway Department is involved due to the sidewalks lining both sides of Ark. Hwy. 88. The Mayor expects work to begin shortly after the bid has been accepted.
A new road will also be constructed inside the city in the coming months. A road meant to alleviate morning traffic will be built in between Mena Ford and Sun Country Inn that will lead to Holly Harshman Elementary. The project has been in discussion for years but due to an Ark. Highway Improvement Grant, the money could not be used for a minimum of five years. The project began when Diane Gathright was Superintendent of Mena Schools and has continued on with current Superintendent Benny Weston. “We need another outlet for traffic flow during our school’s peak drop off and pick up times, along with after school activities,” said Weston.
The grant awarded brought $1 million into the project funds and the City of Mena committed to $360,000. Because construction costs were known to increase over the five-year period, Mena Public Schools originally agreed to pay any overage of what the city pays. Because the state is still in the bid process, it is unknown if the road will cost the school anything at all. In addition to building the road, Mayor McKee said a large bridge will have to be built over Ward Creek, that runs through the property.
For normal maintenance of other city streets, $450,000 has been budgeted for overlay projects. Another $100,000 has been set aside to repair sidewalks throughout the city.