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State denies request for funding for local African-American history study

by Tia Lyons | March 10, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
Terracon Consultant Services, Inc. workers perform a historic survey in the Mellor Park neighborhood in this 2021 News-Times file photo. A request for funding to perform a similar survey in historically African-American neighborhoods in El Dorado was denied by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, which cited problems with the other neighborhood survey as reason for the denial.

The El Dorado Historic District Commission will have to wait a little longer before it can advance with the next phase of the process to implement the city's historic preservation plan.

On Thursday, Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the EHDC, reported that the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program had awarded a Certified Local Government grant of nearly $6,000 to cover program support/staff, training, travel and organizational memberships for the EHDC.

News about the $5,944 grant came from a letter the AHPP sent last month to Mayor Paul Choate.

Other projects that were proposed in the grant application were not funded in the current grant cycle, Eggleston said.

One request was for a multiple property documentation to develop an African American context, one of several projects that were recommended in the citywide historic preservation plan.

The context would identify and highlight notable African American people, places, landmarks and other historic points of interest in El Dorado.

Eggleston explained that the request was denied due to issues that arose during a Determination of Eligibility (DOE)/Cultural Resources survey and inventory of areas that included the Mellor Park and Forest Lawn/Eastridge neighborhoods and a small section of the McKinney subdivision for possible placement on the National Register of Historic Places, whether as a district or with individual properties.

Work on the survey, which was covered by a CLG grant, began in late 2020 and field work was completed in late 2021.

In August of 2021, Eggleston told commissioners that Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., -- a consulting engineering firm that is based in Kansas -- would have to conduct more field work to pick up properties that were missed during the initial phases of the survey.

A team from Terracon's Austin, Texas, offices, worked on the project in El Dorado and were expected to return to survey properties on the west side of North Jefferson Avenue that were included in the project area and were inadvertently omitted from the team's initial visits.

Eggleston said AHPP officials contend that Terracon was paid in full by the city without prior approval from the state but did not complete the work.

Rather, AHPP staff completed the survey.

State officials noted that the issue arose, in part, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which work and travel were restricted in the country.

Iain Montgomery, certified local government coordinator for the AHPP, offered to visit El Dorado to assist the EHDC in finding funding for the African American context.

The St. Louis and Fairview neighborhoods have been proposed for the first leg in the development of the African American context.

The neighborhoods are the oldest African American settlements in the city, dating back to the post-Civil War era.

"Iain Montgomery said he needed to sit down with us and talk to us about the scope of the neighborhoods. We didn't get everything that we asked for," Eggleston said Thursday.

Additionally, a request for funding to reprint the citywide historic preservation plan was not approved for the current CLG grant cycle.

Print Headline: State denies request for funding for local African-American history study

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