City officials met Wednesday to identify potential drainage projects on which to spend more than $500,000 of 2012 drainage bonds. IRS rules require bond funds to be spent within three years, but the city has $519,000 left over from the 2012 bonds, which were issued after voters approved a 5/8-cent sales tax in 2011.
Pine Bluff Finance Director Steve Miller arranged the annual meeting of the bond oversight board “to develop new [drainage] project plans ASAP,” he said in an email.
One project discussed was a long-overdue clearing of Pine Bluff’s primary storm drain. Street Department Director Rick Rhoden said the Hardin Drain has grown clogged with silt, debris and trees due to lack of regular clearing. The drain overflowed during heavy rains in 2016, flooding the basements of the Jefferson County Library and Joe Thomas Public Safety Building with four feet of water. Rhoden estimated that clearing the drain could cost $2 million dollars due to its length of roughly five miles.
The drain begins where Caney Bayou meets the Martha Mitchell Expressway in north-central Pine Bluff. Running south along South Missouri Avenue, it turns east near the Pine Bluff Convention Center, crosses Ohio Street and Harding Avenue and eventually empties into Bayou Bartholomew.
Jurisdiction over the drain is shared by the City of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County. Mayor Shirley Washington suggested meeting with Jefferson County Judge Hank Wilkins to discuss initial plans for clearing the drain. Another item city officials plan to discuss with Wilkins is a study to improve drainage in the Deerfield subdivision south of Pine Bluff, across 73rd Avenue from the defunct Rosswood Country Club. Residents of the area have asked the city to hire an engineer to study how to improve drainage to the area due to persistent flooding.
Larry Matthews, director of the city’s economic and community development department, said a proposal for an engineering study should be ready for city council members to consider at their next meeting. Among other things, the study would determine the boundaries of a potential sewer improvement district, which homeowners in the district would pay into to fund drainage improvements.
Matthews also said a project to resurface tennis courts, replace nets and restore the Bloom Tennis Center should be ready to go to bid by next week. He hopes to have a contract signed for the project by mid-September, with an expected completion date of Dec. 1.