The City Council on Monday gave the go-ahead to the city’s Economic and Community Development Department to pursue state grants for streetscape projects along Main Street and University Drive, as well as a project to build a safe bus stop. Grant applicants must supply 20 percent matching funds, so the council had to approve the department’s request to apply. ECD Director Larry Matthews said the department likely had enough funding to cover the matching grants, although some may be needed from the city.
The department has received streetscape grants from the Arkansas Highway and Transit Department (AHTD) during the previous two years totaling almost $1 million. The AHTD budget is smaller this year, so Matthews said cities have been told to expect smaller grant awards.
“We’re pretty sure we won’t get that much [$1 million], because the pot is not as big as it’s been in the past,” he said.
A proposal by Alderman Bruce Lockett to create a citywide registry of vacant buildings was referred to the council’s Development and Planning committee for further study. A resolution proposed by Alderman Steven Mays to temporarily block Lee Street from West Short Third Street to West Fifth Avenue, to combat illegal dumping, was referred to the council’s Public Health and Welfare committee and its Traffic and Aviation committee.
The council also approved the creation of a study group to rename a street near the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for former Golden Lion football great L.C. Greenwood.
The study group will be comprised of two members of the local community, one member of the UAPB Athletic Department, the UAPB Development Director or designee, the UAPB Chancellor or designee, the 911 area coordinator or designee, and Lockett, who proposed the study group. Lockett said he had spoken with UAPB’s athletic director Lonza Hardy, Jr. and others at the university about renaming the street.
Several aldermen, including Win Trafford, Glen Brown Jr. and Bill Brumett, raised concerns about setting a precedent for renaming streets.
“I don’t know that we need a resolution creating that study group,” Trafford said. “I think that that group just needs to get together on its own. We do that, [and] everyone will start coming to us to name a street after somebody else.”
Mayor Shirley Washington questioned the proposal on the grounds that while Greenwood had attended UAPB (known then as Arkansas AM&N), he grew up elsewhere. Washington said she favored renaming a street after a local person, or a national figure such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the rear of the council chambers, former alderman Glen Brown Sr. spoke up.
“We don’t have anything named after him [King],” he said.
Prior to his term ending in January, Brown Sr. argued passionately for renaming part of Hazel Street after King, but his proposal failed to gain traction on the council. Washington told Brown Sr. she felt the council will some day name a street after King.
“And when it happens, everyone will probably remember you as being the biggest promoter for it,” Washington said, smiling. “No matter how many times we brought it before the council, we can say he is truly relentless.”
Lockett said there were several short streets around UAPB with few residences, which would minimize inconveniences caused by renaming the street. Trafford and Brown suggested referring the resolution to the council’s Traffic and Aviation committee, but the council voted to approve Lockett’s proposal to create a group to study renaming the street.
The council also approved the sale of several stripped-down police cars and 250 arcade game machines seized in a 2013 illegal gambling raid. The council approved a wave of appointments and reappointments to various city commissions as well. Dave Sadler and Dee Herring were reappointed to the Historic District Commission.
Ora Mays and Lonnie Brown were appointed to a panel to study issues related to the 71602 ZIP code. Terence A. Mitchner was appointed to the Planning Commission, while Gordon Reese and Stephen Huselton and were reappointed. Rev. Kerry Price, Sr. was appointed to the Crime Commission, and Quincy G. Pridgeon appointed to the Parks Commission.