Park improvements run into a snag
West Memphis council unsure how to move projects forward
By JOHN RECH
In 2019, West Memphis citizens voted for a $9,050,000 bond to improve city parks but pandemic concerns postponed development. Fast-forward to last week, and the City Council considered authorizing the bond funding during its final regular July meeting, but tabled it over concerns for funding.
With the issue stagnant for a year-and-a-half now, Councilman Tracy Catt had to make changes, adding each of the neighborhood parks to the city spending ordinance. Councilman James Holt, longtime city council representative to the parks commission, called out Parks Director Lorenzo Parker over lack of communication on the project. Councilman Wayne Croom fretted about inflation eroding the buying power for the planned Tilden Rodgers Park makeover.
Holt moved to table considerations.
“I’d like to look at least look something before we vote on a ten million dollar project,” said Holt. “I’d like for us to have a work session, city council, mayor, and parks director. Then we can come back in two weeks and vote on it.”
A handful of council members remembered seeing renderings of new park amenities during public hearings
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leading up to the bond election, but not seen or heard much since. Inflation became a concern for Councilman Wayne Croom.
“Frank Martin (late city Financial Director) had drawings in his office,” said Croom. “I do not know what has happened to them but it gave you a layout. We are in an inflation period of 5.3 percent, We don’t know where this inflation is going. I wanted Ladd Garey to explain the process because we have Tilden Rodgers at 7 million dollars and Hightower park at 2 million dollars. With inflation prices cut the project. It’s a lot of money.”
Mayor Marco McClendon weighed in and lowered expectations. He said money concerns pared back plans.
“The plans Frank had came up to 12 million dollars.,” sad McClendon. “We will not spend more than the $9,050,000 in the bond. We need the contractors along with designer Ladd Garey to sit down together and see what they come up with.
Councilman Tracy Catt said the development plan came on a paid per view basis. He urged city council to monetize the bond to pay the architect to solicit construction bids.
“The concept was seen in the public meetings,” said Catt. “In order for this council to make a decision on what work can and cannot be done we must get the architect to write out construction documents and put them out for bid. It’s a three to six month process. If bids come in at eight million we may want to move forward. If they come in a 11 million we’ll have to see what to cut.”
Catt advanced an amendment for the neighborhood parks. Hightower Park, adjacent to the Roberta Jackson Neighborhood Center at 14th between Polk and Broadway, included plans for a two hundred seat amphitheater visible from East Broadway but came with no additional parking.
“I think the best thing to do is table the Hightower Park proposal and amend the park proposal to include all four parks and Tilden Rodgers. That way we can start the process and go in and get data to make decisions.”
Two splash pads had been planned in parks next to youth clubs. Water fun was planned for Franklin Park next to both the L.R. Jackson Youth Activity Center and the Wonder City Club and Worthington Park adjacent to the Crittenden County Boys and Girls Club.
Holt, still hot, persuaded city council set aside considerations by tabling the proposal and set to meet the parks director in an executive session in two week. Parker slated a Parks Commission meeting for 6:00 P.M., July 27, in the utilities building conference room.