The number of billboards on the stretch of I-40 under Conway’s control will be 32. The Conway City Council agreed to this in a 6-1 vote at Tuesday night’s meeting.

An interstate billboard near the 1200 block of Amity Road belonging to an out-of-town advertising company blew or fell over, and there it has lain for several weeks. That billboard has since been declared destroyed by the Arkansas Highway Department, which also has oversight authority over billboards along highways under its control, and its owner has not asked for permission to re-erect it.

A city sign ordinance hashed out over the course of several public hearings in 2006limited the number of billboards on I-40 (the only place where new billboards are allowed in the city) to 33, with the 2006 ordinance allowing for the replacement of one that falls or is removed — so long as the overall number was 33. 

Townsell asked the Conway City Council to amend this section of the sign ordinance to prohibit any fallen or removed billboard to be replaced, which would have the effect of a gradual extinction of I-40 billboards through Conway.

The council voted against this proposed amendment 4-3, with council members Wes Pruitt, David Grimes and Andy Hawkins voting for "billboard extinction." Councilwoman Shelley Mehl was the only member absent. 

While this failed, an alternative measure to reduce the maximum number of interstate signs to 32 in light of this particular billboard going away passed 6-1, with councilman Mark Ledbetter voting against it. The successful vote means that billboard owners can still replace signs that blow or fall down — so long as the overall number is 32. 

The council also heard a brief explanation of possible impending litigation over the city’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant’s garbage pickup bill. Scott Swearengen, a representative for the restaurant’s corporate owner, Haynie Companies, told the council that his client has good reason to think that for the past decade the Conway Sanitation Department was picking up trash twice a week and charging for four-times-a-week pickup. If true, the over-charge would be about $41,000. The council will hear more about this at the June 10 meeting. 

A FAA reimbursement grant of about $2.3 million was approved. This grant will reimburse the city for 90 percent of what it’s spent for some of the last paving and infrastructure work at the new Cantrell Field airport in the Lollie Bottoms. The remaining 10 percent will be paid by Arkansas Department of Aeronautics state money, save for a percent of this that went to paving part of the airport with thicker concrete.

The council authorized a continuation of the city’s 2-percent ownership interest in the White Bluff steam-turbine electric generation operation and approved rezonings to allow Maurice McClure to operate a new auto body shop at 2955 Dave Ward Drive and change the A-1 agricultural zoning at the northeast corner of Deerbrook Drive and Old Military Road to R-1 "quiet" residential.

Also, the council approved a state Highway Safety Program grant to reimburse the cost of sending the team that will make up District Court Judge Susan Weaver’s Sobriety Court for training in Minneapolis. The grant will reimburse up to $15,000, and Weaver told the council that that the trip and training would cost less than that. 

Information related to a bond issue rededication that would help fund $18 million in street improvements (much of which are needed to fulfill contractual requirements with the developer of the Central Landing shopping center) was included in the agenda packet for the committee meeting, held before the council meeting. However, it was not discussed in substance on Tuesday. 

The council also did away with a 1976 and a 1987 ordinance setting the timeframes for agenda items to be added before a meeting and public and media notice of special meetings. The older ordinances establish an 8-hour public/media notice for special or emergency meetings, while state Freedom of Information Act law specifies at least 2 hours’ notice. The new city ordinance will accord with state law.

A member of the media — this reporter — asked during the public meeting if the city ordinance could be written so as to specify a reasonable means of notice, and said that situations were imaginable in which a single fax might go unnoticed for two hours. After the public meeting some language along the lines of "all reasonable means to ensure that the media is given at least two hours’ actual notice of a special or emergency meeting" was suggested as a future improvement.