By JOE LAMB

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

AIn a presentation to the Conway City Council Tuesday night, Chief of Police A. J. Gary briefed the council on crime statistics comparing crime January to May 2008 and January to May 2009.

CPD statistics show that:

Fifteen rapes were reported during this period in 2008 and 16 in 2009, a seven-percent increase; 26 robberies were reported in 2008 and 23 in 2009, a 12-percent decrease; 164 burglaries were reported in 2008 and 179 in 2009, a nine-percent increase; 939 thefts were reported in 2008 and 845 in 2009, a 10-percent decrease; 53 motor vehicle thefts were reported in 2008 and 44 in 2009, a 17-percent decrease; and four arsons were reported in 2008 and one in 2009, a 75-percent decrease.

Aggravated assault is shown in CPD statistic to have increased by 63 percent, with 38 reported incidents in 2008 and 62 in 2009. This, Gary explained, is due to a government-mandated change in law enforcement incident reporting methods and software that includes domestic battery as aggravated assault in the 2009 numbers, but not in the 2008 numbers, artificially inflating the 2009 numbers when compared to 2008's.

Gary said that CPD implemented new "community policing" procedures Sunday dividing the city into two east-and-west zones described roughly as being on either side of the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Each zone is subdivided into five districts, and officers now are assigned to work 12-hour shifts almost exclusively in zones assigned to them.

This change is intended to keep more officers on the street at any given time and allow the officers to become more familiar with their "beat." Gary said he expects it to bring about some reduction in crime, though comparing the first six months of 2009 to the last may not necessarily reflect this, as during summer months "there's a lot of young people with a lot of free time on their hands."

In other business, the council approved a contract with Salter Construction Co. to build on the new fairgrounds site east of the city. The total cost, including infrastructure work to prepare the land for building construction, is about $3.5 million.

The council also agreed with recommendations gathered through public input regarding how best to spend a $564,000 Federal Economic Stimulus Package Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

These recommendations include $25,000 to replace incandescent traffic light bulbs with LED bulbs, $255,000 for hardware and software allowing more effective traffic light synchronization, $150,000 for a Conway Corp. revolving loan program to promote energy efficiency improvement to existing homes, about $106,000 in incentive money for homebuilders building to EnergySmart and EnergyStar specifications and $25,000 for LivingWise lesson plans and material including a LED light bulb and low-flow shower head to encourage resource conservation among middle school students.

The council mostly discussed the revolving loan program, which would provide zero-interest loans to homeowners to replace older or less-efficient HVAC units with newer ones.

"This doesn't just terminate with the lucky first few recipients of this stimulus money," Townsell said, as the loans will be repaid through additional charges on the homeowners' Conway Corp. bill and go back into the pool of money for future loans.

These recommendations will be submitted to the department of energy for approval.

The council also approved increasing the "ceiling price" of an ongoing environmental assessment relating to the long-planned western loop from $625,000 to $955,253, as the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Federal Highway Administration have requested additional work and reviews of completed work be performed.

In other business, the council approved:

* An ordinance closing the easement located between Lots 33 and 34 in the Deerbrook

Subdivision;

* The appointment of Dale Bruns to a full four-year term on the Advertising and Promotions Commission;

* A resolution ordering the condemnation and cleanup of property located at 1 Cambridge Drive (Conway Code Enforcement officer Grant Tomlin told the council that the offending item is an in-ground swimming pool that has been neglected and festering since 2005, causing mosquitoes and an "at times unbearable" stench.);

* An ordinance appropriating $6,000 received from the Conway Development Corp. to the Conway Planning Department for a GIS mapping project;

* An ordinance appropriating funds for the widening of Lake Beaverfork Entrance Road;

* And approval for a boat dock application for property located at 17 Beaverfork Place (Aldermen Mark Vaught and Shelley Mehl voted against the ordinance, as they have all ordinances to allow private docks to take up space on the public lake.).

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)