Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins assumed James Dreher, a project manager for Landmark Engineering, was in attendance at last week’s Booneville City Council to question why the city has not paid its most recent bill.

He assumed wrong. Instead, Dreher was on hand to update city officials on a now two-year old sidewalk project.

Deher had no problem assigning fault for the delay either: The Arkansas Department of Transportation, or ARDOT.

“That thing is ridiculously behind,” Dreher began his report, then added he had last gotten project documents from the department just two days prior.

“They just gave us the environmental clearance. That should have been done a year ago,” Dreher said. “That’s nothing new. If they had given us the clearance I could have done all my work. If they had found an arrow head on one of the streets we would have had to start all over.”

The most recent documents, Dreher said, include ARDOT’s final comments, which now have to be incorporated into the project plans, which then have to again be reviewed by ARDOT again, before a permission to solicit bids can be granted.

Dreher characterized the changes as “very minor.”

One of the delays was caused, Dreher said, because when the department did a title search for the property involved it revealed the city did not own some of it.

That’s because, he said, the search program the state uses is using old data, as old as nine years old.

The search was incorrect because the city purchased the property from the Raney family resulting in the connection between Marcelle Phillips and Veteran’s parks being called, by Wilkins and others, Raney park.

“They’re wrong,” Dreher said. “It is a cumbersome task to prove to the state that they’re wrong.”

Dreher said the deed has been presented to the department to prove the city owns the property.

Asked by the mayor when bids could be taken Dreher said in a couple of weeks. Dreher said he would recommend a four-week bid period.

“Hopefully mayor I’ll be able to call you and say when do you want to take bids,” Dreher said.

“When you do that I’ll write you a check,” Wilkins said. “Is that okay.”

Dreher said yes to the question that referenced an unpaid bill of $1,283.25 for fees the city has not paid since mid-August. The city did pay four previous invoices totalling $12, 213. Engineering fees are 20 percent of a $165,000 estimated cost.

That estimate is about two years old.

The plan, which was approved by the Department of Transportation in April of 2018, calls for completion of tie-ins for the two bridges between Marcelle Phillips and Veteran’s parks, as well as installation of sidewalks from the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County at Seventh and Kennedy along Seventh Street to McCandless.

There will be an additional block of sidewalk from McCandless between Seventh and Eighth streets, connecting the sidewalks that currently run to both the junior and senior high schools.

The project also calls for a pedestrian crossing beacon at Seventh and Broadway (Highway 23) which will be solar powered.

Once completed, there will be sidewalks essentially connecting the downtown with all schools as sidewalks from downtown to the municipal complex are already in place.

Although the plan was approved almost 17 months ago, the project is older, much older.

Originally, the grant for the project was written with plans to install the bridges between the parks. However, the Booneville School District had also received a joint use agreement to install a new disc golf course that would encompass both parks and the connecting park.

The grant money could be used for course sidewalks, but not the bridges. The bridges were later installed, but lack the tie ins and have become a safety hazard.

Rather than lose the grant funding city officials rewrote the proposal to address the safety issue with the bridges and add lighting between the parks, but that plan was rejected.

The disc golf course was installed with cages that were rough and not regulation and have been redone with the course contained only in Marcelle and Raney parks.