Highway projects continue to progress in the area, Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association governmental affairs committee members heard at the October meeting.
With the environmental review for the planned Fountain Lake parkway hovering around half complete, right-of-way acquisition could begin shortly after the study’s expected completion next summer, GAC member David Whitlow said in his report.
Construction could begin in early 2019. Garland County voters in 2016 approved a temporary sales tax for local roads.The bulk of funds raised will go toward the extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, for the $30 million local share. The project is estimated to cost at least $60 million, with the state Department of Transportation pledge.
The U.S. Highway 70 project is ahead of schedule, he said. Frequent delays and lane closures are ongoing. The ARDoT website says the project is 74 percent complete.
In his Metroplan report, Keith Keck said the ARDoT deputy director discussed the overall highway funding shortfall expected over the next five years. ARDoT seeks citizen input on how this shortfall should be addressed. The survey will be placed at https://form.jotform.us/ahtd/citizens.
In his Benton Chamber of Commerce report, Paul Day said state Rep. Lanny Fite, whose district includes part of the Village, has been named assistant pro tem to the speaker of the House. Fite also serves on the Legislative Council, which meets when the General Assembly is not in session.
Day said highway funding and Internet sales tax had been suggested to be handled in a special session, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson decided not to call a special session, citing legal issues to be resolved on the Internet sales tax.
Also, the governor said highway funding likely would become a ballot issue in the 2019 legislative session.
In his Hot Springs report, Jerry Yeric said CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs has announced a $1.6 million partnership with National Park College and Henderson State University to train more nurses. Funds should bolster the nursing programs at both schools.
Hot Springs board of directors authorized $35,000 in funding for the Garland County Health Unit. Yeric said city and county officials hope it bodes well for budget negotiations between the two governments.
The city initially proposed $15,000 for the reimbursement it provides the county for health unit operations and maintenance expenses, or one-third of the $45,000 provided in previous budget cycles, and ending the contribution in 2019.
Construction has begun on the $4.5 million Creativity and Innovation Complex, the first new academic building built by the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science and the Arts since it opened in 1993.
The building is expected to open in 2019. The former St. Joseph’s Hospital complex is planned to be removed within 30 months after the new center is completed.