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Council OKs lease with corps

Members of the Van Buren City Council approved the lease of Lee Creek Park from the Corps of Engineers.

Aldermen voted 6-0 to allow Mayor Bob Freeman to sign the 25-year lease to operate the park along the Arkansas River. The park has been closed since the April 21, 1996, tornado.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council agreed to seek LEED certification for the new senior center and accept the donation of 55 acres of land valued at $1 million.

It also was announced Shirley and Ed Yeager, Vicki and Ken Kilgore and Carol and Jim Williamson are willing to pay for a Fourth of July fireworks display at the Field of Dreams.

“Leasing Lee Creek Park is a recreational opportunity for the city,” Freeman said. “The park is on the river side of the levee so we will be restricted as to what we can do because of the added expense.”

Freeman said cleanup and adding some picnic tables will be the first order of business.

“The Job Corps at Cass is still committed to helping with cleanup,” the mayor said. “However, because of weather delays, it could be fall before they can start. The city might do some cleanup in the meantime.”

Freeman said the city will keep the boat ramp open at no charge. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission now operates the dock.

Mike LeJong with MAHG Architects said the firm is working with the city and Crawford Construction Co. to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for the senior center.

LEED consists of a suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

MAHG worked with the Van Buren School District to obtain gold LEED certification for King Elementary School, the first in the state.

“We did it with King school for the children,” LeJong said. “Now, we can do it at the senior center for our senior citizens.”

LeJong outlined the steps MAHG is planning to obtain LEED certification for the senior inn, which is being financed with proceeds from a sales tax approved by voters in July 2012. The center also will have a storm shelter being built with a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We are going in that direction anyway,” Freeman said of the LEED certification. “We are doing a good thing for our community while being good stewards in building the most efficient building we can.”

Construction is expected to start in August at the current site with completion 12 months later, LeJong said. The senior center will include 10,000 square feet; the safe room 2,500 square feet with a capacity of 240 people.

Freeman said the center is being designed for growth.

Center Director Carrie Scott said she expects the number of seniors served by the center to double with the opening of the new building.

Currently, the center serves 35 to 45 lunches per day and the Meals on Wheels program makes about 150 deliveries per day, Scott said.

Freeman said he would ask the council at its July meeting to consider the donation of 55 acres originally platted as Phase III of Forest Oaks. He said the land was appraised at $1 million and would be used as a wilderness park with possible walking and hiking trails.

The donation would come from the families of Rob Coleman and John Rausch and would be named in honor of Chad and B.A. Colley, Freeman said.

The mayor informed the council members of the fireworks display to be paid for by the Yeager, Kilgore and Williamson families. Planning for the event will be forthcoming, he said.

The council also voted to close Main Street from 15th Street to the Crawford County Courthouse for the Pioneer Day Parade May 25.

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