Christmas carols and chili were the main agenda for the Dec. 6 meeting of the Lonoke Area Chamber of Commerce, although members also heard that there could be a delay in the bid letting on the new Interstate 40 interchange.
Executive director John Garner said a bid opening was held at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, but AHTD did not accept the ones that were presented.
Christmas songs were performed by second-graders from Lonoke Elementary School, led by Maribeth Alexander.
Chili was made and provided by Bill Cunningham.
In Chamber business, Garner explained the process of bidding for construction of the I-40/Arkansas Highway 89 interchange.
"The Highway Department is going to re-bid [the project]," Garner said.
AHTD feels there are some requirements on the project proposal that could be changed to help lower the cost, Garner said. "We may be able to get a lower bid," he said.
Garner said he is not greatly concerned with the bid results. "I feel strongly that whatever happens the Highway Department is going to work at getting this done," he said.
"Because there has been money invested by the City of Lonoke, money invested by the High Department, rights-of-way have been bought, utilities have been moved," Garner said. "You have probably seen somebody out there working all the time," he said.
"There is money in the bank earmarked for Lonoke by the federal Highway Commission, some four-plus million dollars," Garner said. "I don’t think the Highway Department is going to let that just wash away," he said.
New bidding will be Jan. 9, at the Arkansas Highway Department headquarters on Interstate 30, Garner said.
Garner reminded members that the annual Chamber Chili Supper is in February, and the 44th annual Chamber of Commerce Appreciation Banquet will be in April.
Members welcomed the second-grade carolers from Lonoke Primary School.
Garner also announced that plans are in place to build a Waffle House at Lonoke. "It is not a wish, it is factual," he said.
"I think they will do an outstanding business because Lonoke needs something like that," Garner said.
"This year’s Merry Thanks was "one of the better ones," Garner said. "Thanks to the merchants who participated," Garner said.
The planned presentation from Remington Arms had to be postponed because of unforeseen developments, Garner said. "It has been rescheduled to February,’ he said.
Also, efforts are underway for the Chamber to sponsor a Christmas parade in 2013, Garner said. "The main thing is that the Chamber facilitates it, there is liability and we have to make sure we are covered," he said.
The Chambers of Commerce at Ward and Carlisle sponsor those parades, Garner said.
Garner said he had been given insurance information by Cabot’s planners.
Cabot’s Christmas parade is sponsored by Cabot City Beautiful.
The report from the Lonoke High School chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America was given by FBLA secretary Tori Lackey and member Hailey McMullen.
FBLA members had the American Enterprise Day workshop Nov. 15. More that 70 FBLA members from Lonoke and Beebe heard presentations from several local business leaders about the workings of the American enterprise system.
FBLA members are sponsoring a food drive in the schools to collect non-perishable food items. The food will be distributed to families in the area during the holidays.
FBLA members are also preparing for the coming district competition to be held in January at the University of Central Arkansas.
Vintage Sheets was accepted as a member. Chamber president Jo Liatsos mentioned that Vintage Sheets was already active in the Chamber, having taken part in Merry Thanks during November.
Lt. Col. Michael Donaghy, 19th Airlift Wing director of staff, spoke of events set for Little Rock Air Force Base.
"The base will be slowing down for the holidays," Donaghy said. The base will be open, but the operations, the flying schedule, would be slower, he said.
The Veterans Day observance was well attended. Donaghy extended an invitation for Chamber members to the Christmas Tree lighting set for the following evening – 4 p.m. at the Base Chapel.
Donaghy said the new security forces building at the base is to be dedicated during the week Dec. 10. The Arkansas Congressional delegation supported efforts by the base to get the new building, which will be the most energy efficient building on the base, he said. "It has gone green," he said.
"On behalf of the men and women at Little Rock Air Force Base, I wish everybody Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," Donaghy said.
Liatsos welcomed guests County Judge Doug Erwin, Lisa Donaghy, wife of Lt. Col. Mike Donaghy, Lonoke school superintendent Suzanne Bailey, and Cabot mayor Bill Cypert.