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Rogers gets OK for open space project

City Council approves $963,000 for 26 acres preserved for low-impact uses

ROGERS -- The first open space project is coming to Northwest Arkansas through a grant agreement between the Walton Family Foundation and the city.

An open space project isn't exactly a park. Instead, it is more of a nature preserve, said John McCurdy, director of community development.

The Rogers City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $963,000 from general fund reserve for the Pinnacle Hills Open Space project. It will preserve 26 acres for trails, boardwalks, educational purposes, native plantings and other low-impact uses, according to meeting documents. The foundation will award up to $481,500, making half of the city's cost reimbursable.

The land sits west of Interstate 49, west of Cross Church and along Osage Creek, McCurdy said.

"It's beautiful out there," he said of the space. "It's got a wilderness feel. You wouldn't know you're close to the Pinnacle area."

McCurdy said tree house structures such as the ones at Lake Atalanta would be appropriate for the space, as well as fish habitats made for public fishing areas. The city got a good deal on the land and also has a good partnership with nearby development Village on the Creeks, he said.

Roughly a quarter of the cost will go toward land and the majority of the rest will be dedicated for restoration work, McCurdy said. The stream bank in particular has a lot of erosion, he said.

Alderman Betsy Reithemeyer said it would take a lot of city resources to make it happen, and questioned how much of the budget was going toward projects in partnership with the foundation. Casey Wilhelm, finance director, said she didn't have the exact numbers in front of her but estimated it at $1 million.

An agreement between the city and Mercy Hospital will move certain emergency medical service calls from the Fire Department to the hospital, said Tom Jenkins, fire chief. It was also approved by the City Council on Tuesday night.

Jenkins said the department gets about 50 medical calls each month that aren't emergencies and believes there's some "abuse of system." The agreement will keep the department open to handle only the calls constituting a life-threatening situation and route routine medical services to the hospital.

Jennifer Waymack, senior staff attorney, said the fee structure will reflect market prices.

"It's an incredible idea," said Alderman Marge Wolf.

Alderman Mark Kruger noted even if Mercy mistakenly gets one of the life-threatening calls, at least their staff is fully licensed and capable of handling the emergency.

Jenkins agreed, saying it was a "win-win" for the city, is low risk and a rare, blended model setup he imagines other cities will eventually emulate.

Metro on 10/12/2017

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