BY MELANIE BUCK –
The final part of the Downtown Streetscape project was completed on Wednesday, October 19 with the addition of benches and trash receptacles on North Mena Street between Maple Street and Sherwood Avenue.
The Streetscape project has been 13 years in the making, with a cost of $1,376,125, and the city is glad to see its completion. “We are pleased the Mena Downtown Streetscape project has been completed; it has been a long time coming and it looks very nice,” said Mena Mayor, George McKee.
The project saw the replacement of old, cracked, and sometimes hazardous sidewalks to modern and decorative sidewalks, added lampposts and banners, new benches, and more to create the ambience of a quiet, southern, and old fashioned town sure to draw attention from locals and travelers, alike.
The benches and receptacles were ordered several months ago from Victor Stanley, a company out of Dunkirk, Maryland. They were ordered from the same company previously used to match those already in place on South Mena Street. There were a total of eight benches and eight trash receptacles installed by the Mena Street Department on Wednesday, at a cost of $22,447.
The city also installed LED lighting in the lampposts and they are projected to only cost $1.81 per year per bulb. In comparison, the old bulbs each cost around $60 per year. There are a total of 55 fixtures now lining Mena Street and Mayor George McKee said the lamps will pay for themselves in two to three months.
McKee explained that the project began several years ago, but was halted after the April 9, 2009 tornado due to funding being used for major repairs instead of the cosmetic project. “It took FEMA several years to reimburse us but when they did, we started working on it again,” said McKee.
Although the end of the project has been realized, there will be normal maintenance performed on the brick sections of South Mena Street. A new sealer coat will be placed on the faux brick due to fading. Bob Nesbitt owner of Flooring Consultants in Sherwood, Arkansas, is expected to begin that project at the end of the month. The cost will be $10,363.75.
The beautification of Mena is a vision that many adhere to. “The creative organizations and businesses downtown have been working hard to create events to draw tourism to downtown to improve the area,” said Rick Chrisman, owner of American Artisans on North Mena Street. “It’s important to us to see this improve down here.”
John Vacca, of ARCO (Arkansas Regional Coalition of the Ouachitas), commended the commitment of the elected city leaders of Mena who deemed the importance to beautify and continue to improve Mena Street with sidewalks and lampposts. Vacca reiterated the importance of Mena Street, which serves as the gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway and holds the potential to attract tens of thousands of tourists, making it an important economic engine in the community.