FORT SMITH -- Park projects received more than $310,000 in financial support from the Sebastian County Quorum Court on Tuesday.
The Quorum Court approved spending $89,500 for engineering design work for a drainage improvement project for the county's Ben Geren Softball Complex as part of a larger appropriation. The project is meant to fix drainage issues at eight of the 10 fields at the complex, which were built in 1972.
The appropriation also included $220,985 for a project and equipment for the Ben Geren golf course and community complex, including 80 golf carts between the two sites.
The justices of the peace previously approved a contract with Hawkins-Weir Engineers for the next design phase of the drainage project during a special meeting July 12.
Brett Peters, president and CEO of Hawkins-Weir, said after that meeting the project would try to address issues with the drainage of the overall complex affecting fields 3-10. The firm did a topographic survey and developed a drainage plan for the project, as well as a cost estimate of up to $1.3 million.
County Judge David Hudson said July 12 he anticipates the $1.3 million estimate will be fine-tuned to a lower amount during the design process. He also said the fields have to drain properly to be playable.
Steve Wilhelm, vice president of the Sebastian County Girls Softball League, on Tuesday said he believes the Quorum Court's approval of the money for the engineering design work is a step in the right direction to improve the softball complex.
Hudson explained in a memo included in the packet for Tuesday's meeting the county paid $18,750 for the conceptual elements Hawkins-Weir provided. The $89,500 will come from the county's 11% sales tax account.
The additional design work will more clearly define the project, allowing for a specific project budget to be developed for the Quorum Court to consider funding at a later date, according to Hudson.
"We will continue to evaluate funding options to implement the drainage improvements project based upon a revised projected budget that will be developed working with the engineers and county staff," Hudson wrote.
Hudson wrote addressing the drainage issues at the softball complex is necessary before the county can spend money on repairing fencing and implementing surface improvement on the eight fields, as well as bleachers.
Seventy of the new golf carts will go to Ben Geren Golf Course while another 10 are designated for the adjacent Ben Geren Community Complex, Hudson wrote. New golf carts in the current market cost $4,690 each, bringing the total $375,200. However, the 70 carts the golf course has now can be traded in for $3,300 each, bringing the cost down to $144,200.
The community complex, which the county opened in late 2020 at the site of the former First Tee of Fort Smith, doesn't have its own golf carts, according to Jay Randolph, county park administrator and golf course superintendent. The 50-acre facility includes a nine-hole golf course, three-tiered driving range, 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, chipping practice area, a putting green and a maintenance facility.
Randolph said 10 new carts will help golf programs for youth and adults at the complex without the need to take any from the main golf course. In addition, the 70 new golf carts will replace the fleet at the main course, which has had heavy use because of the amount of play there, especially last year in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. Used golf carts are also in high demand in the current market.
The $220,985 the Quorum Court approved Tuesday also includes $29,600 for a bunker drainage project for the golf course. Randolph said this will address drainage issues affecting the bunkers, or sand traps, on all of Ben Geren's three nine-hole golf courses.
The remainder of the money will go to other equipment needs for the golf course and community complex, Hudson wrote. All will be paid for using golf course profit from 2020.
Golf course revenue
Ben Geren Golf Course took in $694,772 in revenue against expenditures of $606,843 in 2019. The golf course’s revenue in 2020 was $950,216 while its expenditures were $693,415. It made $402,277 from January through June of this year, with $400,329 being required to meet expenditures up to that point.
Source: Sebastian County