Eureka Springs council to partner with state on roundabout

Thursday, November 25, 2021
A map of the location of a proposed roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Highway 62 and Arkansas 23 in Eureka Springs.
Submitted image

If all goes as planned, Eureka Springs will have a roundabout at the intersection of highways 62 and 23 by the end of 2024.

The Eureka Springs City Council approved a resolution on Monday night expressing the willingness to partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) to construct the roundabout. Mayor Butch Berry said he talked with ARDOT representatives years ago about putting a stoplight at the intersection and asked about alternatives.

“One of the alternatives was a roundabout,” Berry said, adding that it would have cost the city $2.8 million at the time. “I said, ‘We’ll never see that roundabout.’ ”

Since then, Berry said, ARDOT has received funding through the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) to cover many projects throughout the state. Berry said he spoke with ARDOT representatives about revisiting the roundabout and was asked how much the city can allocate to the project.

He estimated the city’s contribution at $250,000, Berry said, a 7-percent match to the $3 million project. Berry said ARDOT agreed to fund the project under those terms, showing the council a proposed drawing of the roundabout located at the intersection of Jordan Street and highways 62 and 23.

“It’s a heck of a deal,” Berry said. “It solves a lot of problems we have at that intersection. When we have War Eagle … we have to have a policeman out there almost full time directing traffic. I think this would take care of that issue.”

Berry said the project will require the construction of a retaining wall. The roundabout will be completely designed by ARDOT engineers, Berry said, who have years of experience working on similar projects.

“I’m sure they’re going to take into consideration the drainage and everything else that comes into consideration for roundabouts,” Berry said.

Berry said the final design will be complete six months to a year from now and council member Terry McClung asked if the price would increase over time.

“No, our cost is $250,000,” Berry said. “Ours is fixed. That’s the reason for this resolution is to get this down to the state.”

Council member Bill Ott asked if the roundabout would help facilitate traffic when school lets in and out, and Berry said it would. Council member Melissa Greene asked if the city would have received a deal on a traffic light in the same location and Berry said that wasn’t discussed. If a stoplight were installed, Berry said, it would cost the city additional money on maintenance.

Greene said she’s used roundabouts in Fayetteville and finds them “confusing.”

“I know our residents would get used to them, but is it going to be confusing for our tourists who’ve never used something like this?” Greene asked.

“Most of our tourists come from cities — Dallas, Kansas City, Tulsa — where there are roundabouts,” Berry said. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue there.”

Council member Harry Meyer said the city would have to move water and sewer lines, and Berry said that cost is included in the $250,000 matching funds.

At the beginning of the meeting, resident Pat Matsukis spoke about the roundabout.

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it,” Matsukis said. “Many people in town don’t get it, don’t want it.”

McClung moved to assign the resolution a number and read it for passage and council member Autumn Slane asked if everyone would want the roundabout.

“Obviously, Ms. Matsukis doesn’t want it, but we know that there’s a lot of other people … I’ve heard nothing but positive things about it,” Berry said. “It’s going to solve a lot of problems.”

The council unanimously approved the resolution, and Ott asked when Berry expects the roundabout to be complete. Berry said it should be completed by the end of 2024.

Also at the meeting, finance director Lonnie Clark introduced a resolution adopting premium pay for certain city employees from the American Rescue Plan. Clark said employees who worked between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, will receive $1.50 per hour worked in that time period. Department heads and elected officials are not eligible to receive the pay, Clark said.

“We have a lot of employees that worked really hard through all of this and stayed with the city,” Clark said. “It seemed like it would be prudent to maybe use some of the funds to … help our employees that were involved with the COVID situation.”

Clark continued, “There’s several other counties and cities in the state that are doing a similar type of things. They’re basically rewarding employees.”

Employees who worked during that time period but no longer work for the city are not eligible to receive the pay, Clark said. McClung moved to assign the resolution a number and read it for passage, and the council unanimously agreed to do so. Ott asked when the employees will receive the pay, and Clark said it will be available by the first two weeks of December.

The council then completed the food truck lottery drawing. City clerk Ann Armstrong said three of the groups had only one entry, so those locations won by default. Those locations are: 179 N. Main for Group A; 64 Center St. for Group B; and 44 Kingshighway for Group C. There were three entries for Group D, which spans Highway 62, so the council drew the winners: 409 W. Van Buren and 2400 E. Van Buren.

Armstrong said the Eureka Springs Community Center wasn’t chosen but would win a spot if one of the two winning spots declined to host food trucks.

In other business, the council approved an ordinance amending Title 7 of the municipal code regarding sound generation in commercial zones on a third and final reading. The council also approved a resolution for a public hearing to vacate a portion of Paxos Street.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13, at the Auditorium.

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