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Cultural survey of Retta Brown neighborhood a-go

by Tia Lyons | October 16, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
A Terracon Consultant Services agent works to survey the Mellor Park neighborhood

The El Dorado Historic District Commission (EHDC) will now be able to carry on with its next Cultural Resources Survey for both the Retta Brown and Country Club Colony neighborhoods.

In September, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, explained that the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP) had agreed to reallocate funding from a $22,648 grant toward the cost of a Determination of Eligibility (DOE) survey and inventory of the Country Club Colony neighborhood.

A DOE survey and inventory help to determine eligibility for a nomination to the National Register for Historic Places as local historic districts and/or individually listed properties.

In 2020, the city was awarded a Certified Local Government (CLG) grant from the AHPP to conduct a DOE survey of the Retta Brown and Country Club Colony neighborhoods -- both of which were recommended as projects in a citywide preservation plan that was drafted in 2020.

The grant totaled $22,648, of which $9,660 was to have been earmarked for the Retta Brown subdivision and $6,440 for CCC.

Requests for proposals (RFPs) were sent out to firms and last month Eggleston said that while she had received some inquiries from firms about the project, none had submitted proposals by the Aug. 22 deadline.

She said she sought guidance from the AHPP and checked with Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., an Austin-based preservation/design firm who is working to wrap up a DOE survey and inventory for 326 properties in the Mellor, McKinney, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge subdivisions.

Eggleston said Terracon would be unable to take on the Retta Brown/Country Club Colony project recommended Cox|McLain Environmental Consulting, Inc., which is also headquartered in Austin, Texas.

"(Cox|McClain) said they could not conduct the survey based on the amounts that had been suggested by the AHPP," Eggleston told historic district commissioners in September.

She explained that the firm uses FileMaker by Apple, a cross-platform relational database application.

Eggleston said the AHPP does not have a system that is compatible with the database application and cannot accept documents that are compiled in a DOE survey and submitted electronically.

Consequently, the cost for Cox|McClain to conduct the survey using paper documents was higher than anticipated, Eggleston said, adding that the AHPP is exploring options to upgrade and modernize its database in order to receive the documents digitally.

"Texas is ahead of us in Arkansas, as far as the complicated parts of doing these surveys. You've got several pages, pictures and drawings. It's all been done by paper but in Texas, they're doing it electronically," Eggleston explained.

The details of the proposed contract with Cox|McClain, including the costs, were negotiated and incorporated into a preliminary agreement that was to be reviewed by the EHDC and AHPP.

The AHPP revised the terms of the CLG grant and agreed to pay $15,932, per a request from Cox|McClain, to cover the DOE survey for Country Club Colony.

Retta Brown was eliminated from the CLG grant and state officials suggested that the EHDC resubmit the Retta Brown project for the next grant cycle.

Historic district commissioners decided to present a funding request to the El Dorado Works Board to complete the DOE survey for Retta Brown.

The EWB administers the El Dorado Works tax, a one-cent, city sales tax, which is designated for economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects that are recommended to and vetted by the EWB.

However, Eggleston announced Thursday that the AHPP has increased the amount of the CLG grant to include the DOE survey for Retta Brown

"I asked Cox|McClain to re-submit Retta Brown and I contacted (Iain Montgomery, new AHPP Certified Local Coordinator) in Little Rock asked if he would rather have it separately or together but I haven't heard back from him yet," Eggleston said.

"I'm working on the contract and it has to be signed by (Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer), sent to Cox|McClain and then returned to us," she continued.

Print Headline: Cultural survey of Retta Brown neighborhood a-go


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