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Mena Mayor Smith addresses Highway 71 improvements and changes to Mena parks

Last week, during a Mena-Polk County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the guest speaker was Mena Mayor Seth Smith. During his speech he brought up a couple of subjects that are of interest to the people of Mena: the city’s roads and parks.

Monday morning, the Mayor made time for the Pulse to ask him some questions regarding city streets and parks. Smith says the state is scheduled to do roadwork on Hwy 71 from near Bethesda Road to the Hwy 71/88 split. He went on to say the state also plans to repave Mena Street/Hwy 88 north towards Grandview Heights, but how far the state will go in that direction with paving is yet to be determined. Smith said from what he can see the state proposes to mill up the current road surface and lay a new surface. According to Mayor Smith it’s been at least 15 years since a road project of this scale has been undertaken on Hwy 71 in Mena and with the amount of traffic from cars, trucks and 18 wheelers, the current project is long overdue.

Mayor Smith points out that for 2019 the city has budgeted $350,000 for road improvements and he has submitted a state aid street proposal. If accepted the state will engineer the road project, bring in people to help do it, and cover up to $250,000 of the cost. Smith said he is looking at using state funds to pave Janssen Avenue/Reeves Avenue from Mena Street past the park to Reine Street. He proposes to mill up the current road surface and repave it, not just overlay existing surface, which would cause drainage issues.

In regards to parks, such as Tapley and McMillian, there are some proposed changes coming. The city and University of Arkansas Rich Mountain are in talks for the college to take over the baseball fields at Lee McMillian Park. The park was funded with grant money in the 1970’s and because the park was funded by a grant, the city will get appraisals on the section of the park that UARM will assume control over and UARM will give the city a property or properties of equal value in return. If this takes place Smith said the skate park in McMillian Park would probably be relocated to Tapley Park to centralize activities to that location. Smith said UARM would remodel the current tennis courts at McMillian and add a third court, all three would be available to the public. However, all of this is contingent upon the two parties reaching an agreement. The pavilion, swimming pool, and recreation equipment are not included in the proposal.

Over at Tapley Park a new soccer field will be constructed which could help bring high school regional and state tournaments to Mena. The new soccer program at UARM will also reap some benefits by using the new field. This is great news for Coach Byrd at UARM and can only help in his recruitment efforts.

Outside of roads and parks, Mayor Smith said he is looking at cleaning up the city by tearing down dilapidated houses, picking up trash on properties and generally cleaning up the area. He says Mena is beautiful, but we can always do more to improve the looks and that cleaning up our properties will help raise property values. The city is scheduling a clean up day in April and the Pulse will make notice of that when the city releases the information.

In closing our talk with Mayor Smith, he said it’s been a busy few weeks since the swearing in and that he looks forward to working with the people of Mena to improve the city for now as well as to build toward the future.

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