Thanks, but no thanks.
That's what Ash Flat City Council is telling the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. The council decided unanimously at the Aug. 16 council meeting to withdraw from the 50/50 matching grant proposal from Parks and Tourism for Ash Flat City Park.
The $173,000 grant would have paid for the lighting around the walking track, playground equipment and a handicapped-accessible sidewalk. But the city would need approval from Parks and Tourism before any additional improvements could be made to the park.
Mayor Brien Nix Hall proposed the withdrawal saying without the grant the city could "have more say in what we can have in the lower portion of the park."
That end of the park is the proposed site for the American Veterans Memorial.
If the council kept the grant and put the memorial at the proposed site, Hall said, the memorial would be forever landlocked because Parks and Tourism wouldn't allow a sidewalk to the memorial.
This sidewalk and the memorial's location are two priorities for the American Veterans Memorial Committee. Hall said, "If we take the grant, we will never get a sidewalk."
Without the grant, the plans for the memorial can continue in the direction the committee wants, but the city is left to pay for the walking track lighting, playground equipment and handicapped-accessible sidewalk.
The city will improve the park in phases, Hall said.
"We are going to keep our commitment to the kids and to the safety of the people," the mayor said.
The first phase will be the walking track lighting, playground equipment and handicapped-accessible sidewalk.
Hall said these improvements should be completed by spring 2005. A pavilion will be erected at a later time.
"I feel like it's the smartest move to make," Hall said of the new multi-phase plan for the park.
The mayor emphasized Parks and Tourism is not against the veterans memorial, but it is a sore subject with the department. He based that on a conversation with Susan Clifford of Parks and Tourism.
"Whether we turn it down or whether we don't, because of our problems in this area of the county with grants, chances are very slim that we would get grant money in the future," Hall said.
In other action the council agreed to hire Gary Jackson as the new street superintendent. Larry Fowler resigned Aug. 13. Jackson will be paid $10 per hour. His salary will increase by $1,000 after he attains his blasting license.
The council also hired Jared Allen as a firefighter. He will be paid $15,000 per year. Mayor Brien Nix Hall said after Allen completes additional training, his salary will be increased to $19,000.
Both will begin work as soon as possible.
The council approved giving an additional $1,000 to the Ash Flat Senior Citizens Center. The city gives money each year to the center. The council has already given the center $2,500 this year.
"I know they are having a hard time trying to get by," Hall said.
The money will go into one account for the Ash Flat, Hardy and Cherokee Village senior citizens' centers. The other two centers will also raise $1,000 each for the account.
The money will be used for the centers' various projects such as Meals on Wheels.
The council tabled its discussion of allowing property owner outside of the city limits to tap into the city's water. The man's property is about 1/2 mile outside of town.
The council also tabled an ordinance limiting the number of yard sales one party could have per month.
"We're not trying to put people out of their spring and fall yard sales. We just don't want people to conduct an everyday yard sale," said Police Chief Mike Zeiger.
Zeiger and the council discussed excessive speed on Peace Valley Road. The council told Zeiger to keep patrolling the road and to enforce the 35 mph speed limit.
Zeiger asked the council if the city could provide a gravel area for officers to have a safer place to pull off the road. Hall said he would ask property owners on Peace Valley Road to allow police officers to park in their driveways. He added that the city would help make the driveways larger if necessary.
Two Boy Scouts, Ben Brandenburg and Karl Kootz, will assist the city in building a gazebo at the park. This will be the boys' Eagle Scout project.
The project, originally to cost the city around $6,000, will cost the city between $2,000 and $2,500 now with the Scouts' help, Hall said. Medlock Truss and B&B Supply have agreed to donate material for the project. And Tri-County Farm and Ranch Supply has donated shrubs. After the gazebo is built, the Scouts will landscape around it.The project will take about six months, Hall said.