The Monticello City Council appropriated $20,000 to the Monticello Economic Development Commission for a rail project, $10,000 to the Downtown Revitalization Committee for the town square beautification project, and agreed to take over the maintenance of sewer lines on the University of Arkansas at Monticello campus.
The MEDC recently agreed to pay half of the $40,000 cost to repair the Hood Packaging railroad spur in exchange for an easement to install a switch on their track and extend the rail to the MEDC’s nearby industrial park on Arkansas 35 East.
“This project is a diamond for economic development for communities,” MEDC director Nita McDaniel said in her request for the $20,000.
“It’s very rare that you have one single project that you can invest a relatively small amount of money in to develop rail infrastructure,” she added.
Monticello Mayor Allen Maxwell said if the rail is lost it will make local industries less sustainable and increase 18-wheel truck traffic through downtown Monticello.
The $20,000 will come out of the city’s economic development war chest, money set aside for special economic development projects.
Town Square Project
The additional $10,000 needed for the town square project will pay the balance on work that has already been completed, according to Alderwoman Beverly Hudson, who was involved in the project.
“This money has actually already been spent,” she said.
“I thought y’all had $40,000,” said Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie, referring to funds the city previously appropriated for the project.
“We had $40,000 but we never had a line-item budget to know what anything was going to cost,” Hudson explained. “Someone else may have known that, but the committee did not.”
Explaining the reason the committee never had a line-item budget, Hudson said the project started during the term of the previous mayor and the committee didn’t get involved in the work until almost all of the brickwork was completed.
“So that’s the reason for the confusion and the lack of information,” she explained.
The council agreed to appropriate the $10,000 from city sales tax funds.
UAM Sewer Lines
Mayor Allen Maxwell, recommending that the city take over the UAM sewer lines, said UAM has always maintained the lines but the city receives the revenue.
“Do you have any idea of the condition (of the lines)?” Alderman Raymond Hubbard asked.
“We don’t have any reason to believe they’re any worse than what we’ve already got,” Maxwell said.
The council, commenting about the importance UAM is to Monticello and the need to support the university, agreed to take over the maintenance of the lines.