The Conway City Council voted on Tuesday night to request bids for a structural engineer to investigate and report on the condition of three buildings in the 900 block of Front Street.
The north wall of the Dryer Building next to the alley is more than 17 inches out of plumb, two engineers reported.
"We’ve had conflicting engineering reports," Mayor Tab Townsell said, "and we want a more thorough study to definitely determine what is happening and what we can do and what we can’t do."
Because of the collapse of a 100-year-old building in Morrilton that caused the death of a toddler and serious injuries to others, Townsell said: "We will not drag our feet."
Townsell said the alley and sidewalk will be closed soon, perhaps with chain link fencing.
A representative from Bates Furniture, across the alley from the northward-leaning north wall of the Dryer Building, said the alley is critical to his business, and its closing will put a hardship on pick-up and delivery.
"I just hope you will speed up whatever needs to be done. There will be 18-wheelers in the middle of the street; deliveries will go out the front door. I need that alleyway bad," Bates said.
Terry Long, pastor of the Downtown Pentecostals, owners of the building next door to the Dryer Building, said he represents a small congregation.
"What kind of cost can we expect? When we bought the building four years ago, it already had a lean going, but we thought it was structurally sound. What would be our obligation?" should the building have to be removed, he asked.
Charlie Crossman, owner of Crossman Printing, said there were contradictions in the engineering reports.
He provided copies of a report from a structural engineer he hired last week.
"Will I be able to operate my business? Will I be able to enter my business?" Crossman asked.
The request for proposals order was approved 8-0.
In other business, the council sent back to committee for further study four ordinances proposed by Alderman Mark Vaught related to expanding the use of funds from the "hamburger tax" collected by the Advertising and Promotion Commission.
The funds are currently designated for park development, purchase and construction as outlined by voters in a 2007 election.
Vaught proposed that the creating ordinance be revised to include parks operation and maintenance, taking that burden off the general fund, creating funds that could be used for step raises for employees.
Townsell said if there were additional monies in the general fund, he’d support using those monies to help with the city’s cash flow problems.
Alderman Theo Jones said without discussing the issue with the A&P Commission, the council would be putting the cart before the horse.
The Council voted 8-0 to send the proposed ordinances back to committee.
The Council approved 8-0 a request from the University of Central Arkansas to proceed at the University’s expense with repairs and replacement of a sidewalk at 201 Donaghey that was built by the National Youth Administration during the Depression.
"The sidewalk is nondescript. While the story is historical, the style of the sidewalk is not," Mayor Townsell said.
The university will replace the disrupted or broken path with a brush-finished sidewalk and preserve the end panels that have stone inlays marking them as built by the NYA.
The council also
• Approved 8-0 a resolution adopting the final facility plan for the Conway Corp. Wastewater System Improvements. The project includes construction of the Tupelo Bayou Wastewater Treatment Plant and related collection lines and pump stations and the decommissioning of the Stone Dam Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was built in 1928 and rebuilt in 1979.
The resolution was a requirement of the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for funding of the project.
• Approved 8-0 several ordinances related to construction of the new airport in Lollie Bottoms, including the annexation of 57.64 acres, the rezoning of that acreage from agriculture to heavy industrial, a conditional use permit to build the airport at that location and a material testing contract from Thomas and Associates for initial earthwork construction at the airport runways. The estimated cost of the work is $29,996 with 95 percent reimbursed from the 2010 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration and 5 percent from a State Aeronautic Department grant.
• Approved 8-0 a resolution in support of a Safe Routes to School Grant application for sidewalks and traffic calming measures -- "blinky lights" -- along Siebenmorgan Road, Bill Lucy Drive, Lee Street, Manor Drive and Stermer Road.
• Approved 8-0 a resolution in support of a joint-use agreement with Conway High School-West for the Laurel Park Tennis Court. The school has received a grant from the state Department of Education to replace the lighting. An agreement with the city is required for that work to proceed.
• Approved 8-0 an ordinance to rezone property at 2002 Dave Ward Drive from R-2 to O-3 office.
• Approved 8-0 an ordinance to rezone several properties owned by Conway Regional Medical Center from R-2A to S-1.
• Approved 8-0 a proposal from the City Engineer to paint traffic signal poles in Downtown Conway on Oak Street at an estimated cost of $19,800. The painting would be performed by brush or roller between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with the lane closed under the painting operation.
• Approved 7-1 an ordinance appropriating $9,000 for Civil Service expense for the Conway Fire Department promotion testing.
Alderman Mark Vaught voted no. Acting Finance Director Lowell McClanahan said the funds weren’t budgeted and would have to come from the city’s fund balance.
"I just want you to understand where the money comes from," McClanahan said.
• Heard a report from Police Chief A.J. Gary that the Police Department will hold a public hearing on June 30 to discuss the changes to the Civil Service Rules as related to the hiring and selection process.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at email@example.com or 505-1234.)