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Alma receives grant to improve senior inn

A $203,000 Community Development block grant was awarded to the City of Alma for the expansion of its senior center.

Before the city council meeting Thursday night, Alma Mayor John Ballentine said the grant would be administered through the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District, and Architecture Plus will oversee construction.

Construction on the senior center will include an expansion of the dining area and a porte-cochère - a covered driveway - for drop-off and pick-up, said Tracee McKenna, director of community development with WAPDD.

“It’s going to be a pretty simple project,” McKenna said.

A south end wall will be taken down to make room for the dining area, which will be able to accommodate 35-40 more diners, Ballentine said in a previous interview.

About 285 square feet will be added to the senior center, said Anthony Leraris with Architecture Plus. Construction is expected to begin in January, and the center plans to stay open during that time, he said.

Alma was one of 16 cities and counties in Arkansas to receive one of the grants.

Also during the Thursday meeting, a request for a fire hydrant to be installed on Hill Street was made by resident Jennifer Moon, who lives on Hill Street and was previously the city clerk.

Moon made the request after watching her neighbor Stephanie Pruitt’s house burn down this week, she said. Alma Fire Department responded to the fire.

Moon added that the older, wooden home burned quickly and the distance of the hydrant caused there to be a significant amount of time before enough pressure built up for the fire truck to pump water on the blaze.

“That’s pretty affecting, to sit and watch your neighbor’s house burn down like that,” Moon told council members.

Because Hill Street is in an older section of the city - Moon said she believed her own home was about 50 years old - fire hydrants are not spaced as closely together as newly constructed areas that must abide by state laws requiring them to be no greater than 500 feet apart.

On Hill Street, the closest hydrant from the Pruitt home was at least 900 feet, said Alma Fire Chief Eddie Wakefield.

Though the Pruitt home was “fully engulfed” and unable to be saved when firefighters arrived, they still worked to put out the fire for six hours and had to do cleanup afterward, which involved rolling up about 1000 feet of hose - no small task, Wakefield said.

“In my opinion it’s more important [to have hydrants] in the older areas because you have a lot of homes with wooden construction. Those things catch fire and they just go,” Wakefield said after the council meeting.

Wakefield was the one who suggested Moon request the hydrant after fighting a losing battle with the Pruitt home.

“I want a fire hydrant everywhere I can get one,” Wakefield said. “Is it possible to make that happen? No.”

During the meeting, Doug Wilson noted that the ground in the area is “solid rock” and Public Works Director Mark Yardley cautioned that it may not be affordable.

“They hydrant cost is not significant; the significant cost would be laying the 6-inch line to the hydrant,” Yardley said.

Council members agreed to do a study on the cost for installing a hydrant in the area.

Alma will have its Christmas parade Dec. 6 beginning at 6 p.m. in downtown. Alma Police Department also will have an open house that day from 4-6:30 p.m to show off its recent renovations.

Alma city council members agreed to change dates for their next two meetings to Dec. 12 and Jan. 30.

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