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Hunt Park abandoned as shelter site

New location proposed on Huntsville Avenue

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SPRINGDALE — City Council members now have another site on which to consider putting a new animal shelter. They also have abandoned the idea of building the shelter in J.B. Hunt Park.

A new site was proposed on the south side of Huntsville Avenue and immediately west of Central Junior High School. They also continue consideration of a site along a planned a section of Ford Avenue under construction in the city’s industrial park.

City Council members chose Tuesday night to table the discussion about a new animal shelter until Monday night’s meeting of the council’s committees. The architects working with the city to build the shelter have been reviewing the Huntsville site for its construction opportunities, and their work should be completed before Monday’s meeting, Mayor Doug Sprouse said.

The motion as presented by Councilman Mike Overton included removing the J.B. Hunt Park location for the shelter. This came after several months of discussion and opposition by neighboring home owners. They were opposed to the site being in a park and near established residential neighborhoods.

BJM Rentals offered to sell the 12.33-acre site on Huntsville to the city for $750,000, Sprouse reported. The back third of the acreage could be used to build a park area and a stretch of the Pride of Springdale Trail, planned to connect Springdale High School and Har-Ber High School to each other and the Razorback Greenway. The site also is centrally located, with easy accessibility and visibility — all recommendations made last fall by Shelter Planners of America during an assessment of the city’s needs, Sprouse noted.

The city owns the property on Ford Avenue, and it will be connected to the Razorback Greenway via Dean’s Trail, currently under construction.

City Council members heard May 4 the site on Ford Avenue will cost the city an additional $500,000 in dirt work over the planned expenses for the J.B. Hunt Park site. Sprouse said at the meeting he didn’t want to compromise the quality of the shelter by taking features out to recover the cost. The city’s standing capital improvement fund could provide the additional money, but this fund is set up to cover costs of construction and repair projects not part of the 2018 bond program.

“I think it’s very doable, if it all works out,” Sprouse said of the Huntsville site. “And those are big ifs. There’s no guarantee the site will be OK’d by the architects.”

Residents approved $5.2 million in a February bond issue to build a new shelter near the eastern entrance to the park on Pump Station Road, but residents of the area have opposed that site since the vote.

Three council members voted against the motion Tuesday night. Councilwoman Kathy Jaycox said she had told several members of the community who supported the park site they wouldn’t need to attend Tuesday night’s council meeting because the discussion would be tabled at the mayor’s recommendation. She wanted those supporters to have their voices heard in the discussion.

The neighbors applauded when Sprouse announced the park site was removed from consideration.

“I’m glad it’s finally over,” said Mary Dewett, who said her focus will return to her family. “We want everyone to know we’re not anti-animal. We want everyone to know we’re not anti-shelter. Nearly every one of us on those petitions owns and loves animals. We’re just against the location, against putting the shelter in a park among residential areas.”

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