Summer 2014 will be a time to avoid Lincoln Street if the city council approves participation in road modifications suggested to prepare for the opening of the Freshman Academy in the 2014-15 school year.

The modifications would add three traffic circles, or roundabouts, and could cost a total of $1.6 million, a cost to be shared by the city and Cabot School district.

On Monday, the road modifications and construction of a community tornado safe room were added to the agenda for the Sept. 16 council meeting by the city council committees for public works, budget and personnel, and police and fire departments. The combined committees meet for discussion of city business matters and to set the agenda for coming council meetings.

In prepared remarks, Mayor Bill Cypert called on the committee members to approve the proposals for consideration by the full council.

Cypert noted that the city and school district "Have been in partnership mode" to prepare for the increased traffic on Lincoln Street that the Freshman Academy will bring. The Academy will serve ninth graders as a transition to high school from junior high school; it is set to open in fall 2014.

Following a traffic study, the firm of Peters and Associates recommended a series of improvements that include building three traffic circles, Cypert said. "The city concurs," with the findings, he said.

Two of the traffic circles would be on Lincoln Street: one at the junction of Locust Street, and one at the junction of Spirit Drive. The Spirit Drive traffic circle would also serve the parking area for Panther Stadium.

The third traffic circle would be at the intersection of Spirit Drive and the drive for Junior High School North, behind the school district central administration building.

Cypert said the school district managed the engineering and bidding, and would oversee construction and inspections. "They will bill us for our part per an agreement," he said. The work would be done during summer 2014 for the opening of the Academy in August 2014.

The bid projection for the two roundabouts on Lincoln is about $436,000. To be "fair and equitable and partner equally on all costs," the city has agreed to pay 55 percent, about $240,000, with the school district 45 percent, about $196,000, Cypert said. This would allow about 10 percent for engineering fees and support of district’s improvements on school grounds, which are not included in the bid costs, he said.

Bids by two companies were considered — Barger Construction, Cabot, and Heritage Construction, Beebe. The bids were in four schedules — the Freshman Academy grounds; Spirit roundabout; Lincoln/Spirit roundabout; and Lincoln/Locust roundabout. A fifth section adds curb and gutter, with fine and rough grading under exterior concrete.

Cypert pointed out that the school district has already made traffic traffic improvements on Lincoln street by "fronting" the cost of stacking lanes at Middle School North, installing warning signals for the Shiloh crosswalk; designing and paying for traffic improvements at the High School complex; and paying for the Spirit roundabout.

Cypert said he expects that the roundabouts will improve traffic flow on Lincoln Street, "Once the motoring public is accustomed to single lane roundabouts." The benefit is that the stops now needed at the three intersections, "will be virtually eliminated," he said.

"The City has an excellent consensus and partnership relationship with the School District and we want to continue to enhance the power of this partnership," Cypert said.

Revenue from the recently approved half-cent city sales tax for the street fund is expected at $32,250 a month, beginning in September, Cypert said. At that rate, there should be about $322, 500 available by June 2014; funding for the two roundabouts would be included in the 2014 city budget, he said.

Most of the cost of the Lincoln/Locust roundabout was included in the TIGER grant application for Locust Street improvements, Cypert said. "We should know if we get the grant by the first of the year," he said.

According to information from the Department of Transportation, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) established the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Program (TIGER), for "innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region, or the nation."

"With your consensus, I will proceed on drafting an agreement with the School District to bring to the Council in the near term; and, the funding will be included in the 2014 budget. The School Board will consider their part at tomorrow evenings Board meeting," Cypert said.

Concerning the community tornado safe room, Cypert called on the committee members for their concurrence for him to, "proceed to work with the Parks and Recreation Commission, their Engineer ETC and plan for and proceed with the safe room."

A community safe room was proposed at a previous meeting. Currently, the city has no designated safe room to shelter residents during severe weather.

Cypert noted that the Police Department hallway is used by "a small contingent" of residents seeking shelter from severe weather. But because of limited space, the presence of even a small number of non-essential personnel can impact the operation of the Incident Command Center, he said.

"Therefore, I think it prudent to look at an immediate opportunity to building a safe room in the [Cabot Veterans Park] Community Center, " Cypert said.

A $1.2 million grant request was not approved, but the city was approved for a for a $300,000, which the city will match with $75,000, Cypert said.

Now is the time to include safe room requirements in the design of the planned Community Center Banquet Facility, Cypert said. "This is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the grant," he said.

There could be additional savings while providing more area for a safe room; requirements are for five square feet for each person, Cypert said. "This safe room would easily support 239 residents plus one ADA resident," he said.

The funding for the grant is reserved for the city, and Central Arkansas Planning and Development District would manage the grant at a fee of 4.5 percent. "Of course, the match would be included in the budget for 2014 as well as the grant administration and engineering fees," Cypert said.