City officials wrapped up a series of town hall meetings earlier this week and Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer has said she would like to continue the meetings and expand their reach to help keep local residents engaged in the goings-on of the community.
Ward 4 council members Paul Choate and Dianne Hammond held a town hall meeting Monday at Morning Star Baptist Church, No. 2.
It was the fourth in a series of town halls that have been hosted this year at the behest of Smith-Creer, who had asked council members to schedule town halls in their respective wards.
The purpose of the meetings was to provide El Dorado residents with a better understanding of the inner workings of city government, the mayor has said.
The meetings also provide the opportunity for in-person contact between city officials and constituents and for city officials and city employees to hear feedback from the public.
Also attending the meetings were representatives from police, fire and public works departments.
“All the meetings have been well attended. I appreciate the council members for participating, as well as the police chief, the fire chief and the public works director,” Smith-Creer said Tuesday. “They did exactly what I wanted them to do: inform the public.”
A variety of issues were broached during the meetings, with one of the primary topics being city streets. The Ward 4 meeting was no different.
Hammond and Choate said one of the main complaints among those who attended the meeting was on-the-street parking in the area of Eighth Street and Bradford.
Choate noted that the two streets intersect in a sharp, 90-degree curve and residents said vehicles are often parked on both sides of the street and close to the intersection, making it difficult for two vehicles to pass simultaneously through the high-traffic area.
They referred to the area as the “West Side Bypass” because vehicles frequently cut through the residential neighborhoods surrounding the El Dorado Racquet Club and traffic pours into or from the West Eighth-Bradford area.
The issue ties into an ongoing effort by the city council and El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission to clarify a city ordinance that, in part, bans parking in front yards on a prescribed list of main arterial and collector streets within the city.
Eighth Street, specifically the area between North West Avenue and College Avenue, is listed as one of the collector streets in city Ordinance 1773.
West Avenue and Hillsboro are the main arterial streets listed in the ordinance. Other collector streets include:
• South Newton.
• South Washington.
• South Jackson.
• Martin Luther King.
• Smith/Calion Road.
• North Jefferson.
• Thompson between Main and Grove.
• Oak between North West and Thompson.
• Mount Holly.
• Parnell Road.
• 10th between North West and Calion Road.
• Ninth between Madison and Mosby.
• Grove between North West and Jefferson and North West and College.
• Fifth between North West and Calion and North West and College.
• Griffith between North West and College.
During a specially called meeting earlier this month between the council members and planning and zoning commissioners, Council Member Judy Ward explained that the streets that are included in the ordinance were measured when the ordinance was passed in the late 2000s and deemed wide enough to allow for the passage of emergency vehicles if private vehicles are parked along the side of the road.
Council members also noted then that most city streets were built during an era when families typically owned one vehicle per household.
“The problem is people have multiple cars and many times, there are multiple families living one house,” Hammond said Tuesday.
Limiting parking to one side of Bradford was one possible solution that was proffered during the Ward 4 town hall, she said.
Another issue pertained to the area just west of Bradford.
Residents in the area of Mount Holly Road and Crawford and Palm drives complained of ongoing problems with drainage and flooding in the area during heavy rains.
Another resident referred to street repairs along College.
“She said when it’s overlaid, you often have to dodge patches in the road,” Hammond said.
Choate said he appreciated hearing from residents, noting that the Ward 4 town hall represented a “good cross-section” of the ward and that the feedback was mostly positive.
“I recognize the fact that we’ve got some truly concerned citizens. I think we had a productive meeting and we thank (the Rev. Felton) Burgie for letting us use his church,” he said.
Choate said the El Dorado Police Department has looked into the matter in the West Eighth-Bradford area.
“We may have to have a discussion at the city council level to see how we can alleviate that strain,” Choate said.
Smith-Creer said such discussions and cooperation between citizens and city officials are what she was hoping for with the town hall meetings.
She previously said that once the meetings were held in each ward, city officials would evaluate the town halls.
“I want to look at revamping them to include (Superintendent Jim Tucker of the El Dorado School District) and the (El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce) to further inform people about what goes on in the city,” Smith-Creer said. “A lot of people don’t come to city council meetings and I want to give them the opportunity to become more engaged.”
Choate agreed, saying, “I think we need to have them with regularity, I think one in the spring and one in the fall to make it truly a community-type, town hall meeting.”
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.