Apr 6, 2015
Conway Mayor’s Latest Folly: Spirit Homes
(Submitted by a Faulkner County observer) Last Tuesday night I attended the public meeting outlining the potential community / swim center our Mayor is touting as such a bargain for Conway. Several odd things things stood out to me: ♦ The Mayor said the property being considered (Spirit Homes across from Walmart on Dave Ward)...
Last Tuesday night I attended the public meeting outlining the potential community / swim center our Mayor is touting as such a bargain for Conway. Several odd things things stood out to me:
♦ The Mayor said the property being considered (Spirit Homes across from Walmart on Dave Ward) had been empty for at least 10 years because it only has one loading bay (which makes it useless to any potential buyer), so the owner has reduced the price from way over $5 million to $3.5 million. Wonder why the owner didn’t reduce the asking price all those other 10 years?
♦ A talked-about feasibility study “might cause the City to lose this special opportunity because it would alert potential buyers.” I guess five or six special town meetings wouldn’t do that? Have those buyers been asleep for 10 years?
♦ The $3.5 million purchase price is just a minor part of a much bigger financial picture. Consider that the Mayor himself agreed with David Crow that the project would actually cost $26.5 million with yearly operating costs of about $3.6 million yearly.
♦ The Mayor would like to buy first and ask questions later. Doesn’t that sound like “Let’s pass this bill so we can find out what is in it?” So Conway taxpayers will buy the property before we know if it is suitable for the task. Is that how it’s done?
♦ Access for all of Conway’s residents came up. Mayor Townsell said it would be easy to get to by car because it’s at a major intersection and planned traffic circle. If kids wanted to walk or bike there, they would have to go north of that intersection, about a mile, to use the bike paths. (Oh I forgot, those bike paths do not exist and will have to be paid for, and then built.)
Townsell also mentioned that a bridge would have to altered to accommodate this path, but there was no mention of funding for any of these projects.
♦ Someone asked how the kids from “the other side of town” would get there since no bike or walking paths connect for “those people.” That comment was just brushed aside as if not worthy of answering.
After a lot a pretty pictures and graphics that made little sense, someone asked, “How are we going to PAY for this?” Our Mayor then launched off into a fast-paced narrative about the rededication of existing bonds and the excess funds in the AP account. Oh yes — the new shopping center will also raise the City’s revenue.
Bottom line is that the Mayor is telling everyone that it will not cost anybody anything. This is after publishing the 2014 budget showing Conway’s General Fund is in the red.
This will be the most ambitious and by far the most expensive project Conway has ever proposed with no help from some sort of grant or something — and they do not even know if the existing structure is suitable!
I say “will be” because we all know the City Council is not “considering” the purchase, they’ve already gotten their marching orders from the Mayor. We taxpayers are lucky we got even 2 weeks’ notice of the City’s plans for us.
Meanwhile, Oak street is as smooth as a wagon trail, downtown merchants still keep sandbags in their shops, downtown has that parking problem and our police and fire departments are operating on short funding — and access to bike trails for those “other” people isn’t a problem because they can’t afford bikes anyway.
It’s Conway taxpayers that will find they can’t afford the Mayor’s latest “nice-to-have” amenity. But that’s OK, Mayor Townsell will be out of office by then. Conway’s folly will remain.