City council to meet

The El Dorado City Council is scheduled to meet in regular session at 5 p.m. today in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

The opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance will precede the meeting at 4:55 p.m.

Council members are expected to hear a funding request for the 2024 season of the MAD Playscape and splash park.

During a regular meeting Tuesday, the El Dorado Works Board approved a funding request of $200,000 to operate and manage the playscape and splash pad this year.

The EWB administers the city's one-cent sales tax that is earmarked for economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.

Pam Griffin, MAD president and CEO, said attendance at the playscape in 2023 was 38,687, the largest in the history of the facility.

June 2023 recorded the highest monthly total at 8,515.

Griffin said attendance is typically higher in June because the splash park traditionally opens in late May.

However, she said MAD partnered with other groups in 2023 to host other activities at the playscape, including a community Juneteenth celebration.

She said the event also helped to bump up the number of visitors to the playscape last June.

"The Juneteenth celebration was big success. It brought in people who had never been to the playscape before," Griffin said.

For the past three years, the city, which owns the playscape, has dedicated funding to help MAD operate and manage the facility.

The payments are made quarterly and in arrears to account for the actual hours the playscape is open.

Griffin said the $200,000 request is up against a total, projected budget of $277,658 for 2024, adding that Murphy USA kicks in matching funds.

Several repair and maintenance projects were covered in the actual budget of $247,344 in 2023 -- $200,000 of which came from the city, said Griffin.

MAD completed a rubber-mulch installation project to replace wooden mulch, purchased rubber mats for the slides and bought new pipes and tore up concrete to repair leaks underneath the splash pad.

The work uncovered more leaks and additional work is going to be needed fix the concrete that was taken up for the repairs, said Griffin.

She also noted that pipes inside the walls of the restrooms froze and burst during winter storms that swept through the area last month, adding that the MAD maintenance crew was able to repair the damage.

The crew also repaired damage to light fixtures that was caused by water infiltration, she told EWB members.

Griffin said water pipes underneath the splash pad had been filled with anti-freeze to prevent breakage before the winter storms set in.

She said the pipes will have to be flushed before the splash pad opens for the season.

"We don't think the pipes underneath the concrete are buried far enough, so we could bury them deeper, but that would cost more," Griffin said.

She said MAD is working with engineers to come up with a cost-effective way to address the issue.

Repairs are also needed for the fiberglass on the Arkansas Razorback feature on the playground and Griffin said MAD is working with the El Dorado Water Utilities to resolve an outstanding $19,000 water bill.

Griffin explained if the amount pertained to ongoing services/billing or "if it's one big catch-up bill."

"I don't think it's physically possible for that much water to come through that pipe in one month," Griffin said.

EWB member Sara Coffman said the issue may stem from a 2023 project in which the EWU converted its cellular-based water meters back to automated meter readers.

At the time, customers complained about marked increases in their water bills as the new meter-reading system went online.

For customers who had not yet been switched to the AMR system, their monthly water bills were estimated, according to the average use from the previous 12 months, resulting in higher monthly water bills for many customers.

The EWB also voted Tuesday to recommend the reappointment of Coffman to the board.

Coffman's term expired last month and she expressed interest in serving another term.

New EWB Toddy Pitard, who participated in the meeting by phone, asked that the board wait until all five members are present to vote on Coffman's reappointment and to elect 2024 officers.

Pitard was traveling and unable to attend in person and EWB board member Avo Vartentian could not attend due to illness.

Board member Andre Singleton, who had a made a motion to vote on Coffman's reappointment, noted that a majority of the members -- himself, Coffman and chairman Greg Downum -- was present, with Pitard on the phone, and that he did not want to withdraw his motion.

Pitard abstained from the vote and the EWB tabled the election of officers until the group's next regularly scheduled meeting in March.

During the city council meeting today, Downum is expected to present the MAD funding request and the recommendation to reappoint Coffman to the EWB.

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