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VB seeks to improve three parks

Van Buren hopes a state grant will stretch sales tax revenues to bring to fruition the first phase of the city’s park system plan.

Aldermen voted 6-0 Monday night to apply for a 50/50 matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Outdoor Recreation Program to help fund the resurfacing of a basketball court at Rolling Hills park, new restroom complex at the Louis Peer Memorial City Park and new playground equipment and two pavilions at Field of Dreams Sports Complex.

The Rolling Hills park will have a basketball court and two pickleball courts, according to Joe Hurst, city planning director.

Hurst estimates the cost at about $170,000. The city hopes to receive around $85,000 as the state match if the grant is approved, he said.

Mayor Bob Freeman said the city has been unable to apply for state grants for parks in the past because it did not have the matching revenue until voters approved a 1-cent sales tax in 2012.

“This is not a one-shot deal,” Freeman said. “We want to continue to invest and apply for this grant each year. We have to meet criteria and show that we take care of what we’ve got, that we use the money to go toward what we wanted to do and finish our projects in a timely manner.”

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department utilized a series of public meetings to develop a short- and long-term parks system plan.

“We had a lot of good ideas and got to hear the public’s needs, most of which are more long-term goals, so we can plan on our future,” Hurst said. “The grant will be for a lot of the more short-term goals that we’ve established.”

Also Monday, the council approved an application for a state grant that would help pay for part of an expansion at the Bekaert Corp.’s Van Buren facility. The grant, an Arkansas Community and Economic Development Grant, would be used to expand a parking lot, Freeman said.

The grant, if approved, would be given to the city and then administered out.

Aldermen passed a resolution authorizing Western Arkansas Planning and Development District to assist the city with administration of the grant.

The council also:

• Voted to dispose of two unrepairable network servers in the clerk’s office and trade in an aged copy machine in the police department for a new model.

• Passed an ordinance allowing the city to do business with Coombes Dirt Pit, Coombes Trucking and Williams Florist. The owners of the businesses have relatives who work for the city.

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