Plans for Pine Bluff multipurpose center progressing

Plans for a multipurpose aquatic center for downtown Pine Bluff are currently in the master planning phase, according to officials.

Project architect Dave Sadler of Nelson Architectural Group Inc. in Pine Bluff said that the center is planned for a lot on 11th Avenue just south of the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Sadler and his firm are part of a design team for the aquatic center that also includes Little Rock-based architectural firm Crafton Tull and aquatic engineering firm Counsilman-Hunsaker Associates of St. Louis.

“The city has appointed a design committee and we will be meeting regularly to come up with project plans,” Sadler said.

Sadler said that the project will consist of four or five phases and that Nelson will be focused on construction administration through setting objectives for the project.

Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Department Director Larry Matthews said that Crafton Tull has a $97,000 contract with the city to perform initial site work and come up with several design ideas that the Pine Bluff City Council can vote on.

“We expect final plans to be ready sometime next year,” Matthews said. “The center will be built in phases. While the initial plans called for an $11 million project, so far the city has only issued $4 million in bonds. More can be issued later but for now that is what we have.”

Matthews said that a series of public meetings will be held to solicit input on the eventual composition of the center. He said that the center is to include an Olympic-size swimming pool, a kiddie pool and a pool for use by senior citizens. Potential additional features include an indoor walking trail, an exercise room, a weight room and an indoor basketball court.

Bond project progress

In a Feb. 8, 2011, special election Pine Bluff voters approved a five-eighths-cent sales tax to fund a number of capital projects aimed at improving the city’s quality of life.

Voters separately approved a series of bond issues, including a total of $5,565,000 in municipal park and community center improvement bonds for the purpose of building new community center facilities or making improvements to existing facilities.

Finance Director Steve Miller said at the July 8 meeting of the bond project task force that bonds for the multipurpose center have yet to be issued.

The 2011 bond issue for parks and recreation went to the master planning phase for the multipurpose center, the Saracen Landing splash park, the Townsend Park baseball field and new restrooms at Regional Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

The splash park is currently planned for completion in the fall of 2014 and is expected to open in the spring of 2015, Matthews said. The Townsend Park baseball field is planned for completion in the fall of 2014 and is expected to open in the spring of 2015.

The new restrooms are expected to open in the next few weeks, Parks and Recreation Department Director April Layher said.

Voters also approved $4,060,000 in street improvement bonds to improve infrastructure including drainage, sidewalks and traffic signals.

Voters approved an issue of $6,030,000 in fire department improvement bonds for financing new equipment, improvements to existing facilities and the construction of new facilities.

The Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department received new pumper trucks, tools and equipment and has remodeled the Moreland Street Training Facility and Maintenance Shop and Pullen Street Station No. 2 and has rebuilt Station No. 3 at 30th Ave. and Ash Street.

Police department improvements in the amount of $1,740,000 were approved for the financing of new equipment as well as improvements to existing facilities and the construction of new facilities.

The police department has received several new patrol cars as well as equipment.

The police and fire departments will see their main building — the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building — remodeled.

Voters approved $1,160,000 in animal control improvement bonds for the construction of a new facility or improvements to the existing facility.

At a July 1 meeting of the bond project task force, it was agreed that Fred Reed, the project architect for the new animal control facility, will substantially downsize his plans to accommodate a budget of $1.1 million. The task force agreed that the downsizing was necessary after hoped for funding from Jefferson County government and other donations did not come together.

Sewer improvement bonds worth $930,000 were approved to finance the extension of sewer lines and improvements on existing lines.

Municipal sewer lines have been extended down U. S. Highway 63 to Ridgway Road and several other sewer improvement projects are in motion.

Finally, voters approved $2,320,000 in drainage improvement bonds for the purpose of financing costs related to improving drainage and flood control measures.

A number of drainage projects either have been completed or are in motion, including the University Drive drainage project, the Mulberry drainage project, the Dew Drop drain project and the Pitts drainage project.