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The Pulaski County Quorum Court gave preliminary approval to several items during its meeting Tuesday night, including the establishment of an improvement district that would allow businesses to get loans to become more energy efficient and the pursuit of federal money to enhance a bike trail near Two Rivers Park.

The preliminary approval moves the measures to a final vote March 24.

After much debate over road priorities, a resolution supporting the Road and Bridge Department's pursuit of federal Transportation Alternatives Program funds to expand the Pinnacle Valley portion of the Arkansas River Trail passed on a final vote of 7-3, with three justices of the peace abstaining. District 2's Tyler Denton, D-Little Rock, and District 4's Julie Blackwood, D-Little Rock, were absent from the meeting.

Barbara Richard, acting Public Works director, said cyclists and visitors to Maumelle Park often must dodge one another and that accidents have occurred in the area, including one about a month ago.

In 2013, the County Farm Road portion of the River Trail -- between Two Rivers Park and Maumelle Park -- was strewn with tacks during a bike tour, causing blown tires.

The Road and Bridge Department would compete with other government agencies for the money administered by the state Highway and Transportation Department.

District 1 Justice of the Peace Doug Reed, R-Roland, and District 13's Phil Stowers, R-Maumelle, said they opposed the project because they believed bike trails should not be the top priority for transportation funds.

Stowers said 2015 was a "new era of county government" in which the county needs to "move on" from bike and pedestrian trails and bridges, of which, he said, the county has enough.

The Transportation Alternatives Program is designed for nonvehicle transportation. The program, however, only provides funds for 80 percent of the project, meaning the county Road and Bridge Department would pay 20 percent, plus engineering costs.

Richard estimated that the project would cost $400,000, leaving the county on the hook for $80,000, plus engineering costs.

She said the funds would come from the general improvement portion of the department's budget, which can be used for trails, drainage and roadway improvements, among other things. She also noted that the expense would not take away from fixing potholes spawned by snow and ice, which she said would be fixed within a week anyway.

The department's budget through the Pulaski County general fund is $22 million in 2015. The department receives additional money from the state for operations.

The Quorum Court also gave preliminary approval, 13-0, to an ordinance creating an energy improvement district that would set up a Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Under the program, a business, for example, would apply for a loan and pay it back through an add-on to its property tax bill that would be funneled back to the improvement district. The business would be required to save more money through energy efficiency than the cost of the loan.

Funding for the loans can come from private funds, public funds or bonds, according to the Pulaski County attorney's office.

Little Rock and North Little Rock have approved establishing such districts but have not set them up yet, said Adam Fogleman, Pulaski County staff attorney.

Fayetteville has a fully established program that the county has studied, Fogleman said.

Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde requested the measure, Fogleman said. Hyde was not at Tuesday night's meeting.

The Quorum Court also approved 13-0 moving Virgil Dexter Doyne's appointment to the county Planning Board to a final March 24 vote.

Doyne, 60, is president and CEO of Doyne Construction Co. in North Little Rock and has been a member of the county board that oversees Verizon Arena.

Doyne, a College Station resident, said he did not know everything about the Lake Maumelle watershed zoning code and its history but said in response to a question from Reed about his feelings on the matter that he would listen to all sides.

Planning Board members are appointed by Hyde and approved by the Quorum Court. If approved, Doyne's term would expire in July 2019.

Business owner Jay Freeman's appointment to the Central Arkansas Transit Authority board also was given preliminary approval 13-0.

Freeman, 62, owns Jay Freeman Insurance Agency and is a Cammack Village resident.

Pulaski County gets to name two to the 12-member board, to be appointed by the county judge and approved by the Quorum Court.

If approved, Freeman's term would expire in March 2019.

Metro on 03/11/2015

Print Headline: Pulaski County JPs plow through agenda

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