Mayor addresses controversy regarding new shop building
There have been questions from some in Trumann regarding the city's purchase of 2.55 acres of land on Highway 463 North for the purpose of building a new shop for the Street Department. "It's come to my attention that there's a lot of controversy surrounding the new shop," said Mayor Barbara Lewallen. "People are certainly entitled to their opinions on city purchases and construction, but I think it's necessary to dispel incorrect information about it."
The Street Department's current shop on Oak Street dates from possibly the late 1960's or early 1970's. It was originally constructed to be a garbage dump. Garbage was offloaded into the building and put into an incinerator. The incinerator was later replaced by a compactor.
The site for the new shop was the site of an old Burger King building that has sat empty for years. Eventually, it was boarded up due to vandalism. Lewallen said a recent reduction in price for the property made it possible for the city to purchase it.
"When I was doing volunteer work with the chamber, I was aware the property was on the market," Lewallen said. "I spoke with the company that owned it. The old price was $250,000 for the building and the 2.55 acres. A few months ago, it came to my attention they had reduced the price drastically to $50,000." For a price comparison, Lewallen said the former McDonald's lot on 463, which was bought by Arkansas Dental Clinic for their new location, was $36,000 for a half acre.
"In view of the greatly reduced price, we looked to see if there was any way to buy the property for the city," Lewallen said. "In 2015, voters approved a bond refinance which allowed for major projects. Among those was a new facility for the street crew. We found enough money in the Street Department budget to purchase the acreage and are constructing a new facility on that site rather than on the old site on Oak Street. The money approved by the voters is paying for the building."
Lewallen added that bond money can only be used on the projects voters have approved it for and cannot be transferred from one department to another, so the money being spent on the new shop could not be used for other needed projects like a new well. "Even if we hadn't bought the property for the new shop, we still would not have enough money to build a new well and replace aging infrastructure," Lewallen said.
Regarding the site for the new shop, Lewallen said the city administration felt it was a better and more centrally located spot for the building. The plan for the old shop building is to once again make it the site of a trash compactor to increase efficiency and save money on trash collection.
Trumann's Street Department consists of eight people who do a variety of jobs including maintaining 250 streets, seven city parks, city drainage ditches, all city-owned property, and right-of-ways for the railroad and Highway Department. They also tear down abandoned property, mow and clean up lots not kept in good condition by their owners, keep the roads clear of snow and ice, clear the streets of limbs and debris after storms, and take down trees in danger falling. "They're a disciplined crew who take pride in their work," Lewallen said. "We at the city feel that the new facility will be a vast improvement both to the north end of Highway 463 and to the street crew's ability to house equipment and do maintenance work in a better facility."
"I think everybody in the community takes great pride in the new school buildings--the new high school, the new elementary under construction, and the renovated intermediate center and gymnasiums--and we in the city administration feel people should feel an equal sense of pride in a nice city facility," Lewallen said. "All our city administration buildings are old. Some were built in 1927-28, some in the 1960's and 1970's. We want our whole city to be improved and to be more efficient. This is not a project we consider wasteful."