The Monroe City Council awarded a bid of some $2.3 million to Amethyst Construction earlier this week to build turn lanes on U.S. Hwy 165 and rebuild Venable Lane near CenturyLink’s headquarters.
City officials have said the Hwy 165 turn lanes and Venable Lane reconstruction project are crucial to the development of Century Village, a mixed-use development that includes the IBM building off Hwy 165 North.
Amethyst Construction of West Monroe submitted the only responsive bid for the project. Their bid was $2,296,847.66.
City Engineer Kim Golden said a northbound left turn lane and a southbound right turn lane would be added to Hwy 165 at Venable Lane.
Golden said the Venable Lane reconstruction project involved rebuilding the existing crossing of Hwy 165 at Venable Lane. The reconstruction project will rebuild Venable Lane from Hwy 165 toward the west where it would meet Century Village Boulevard, according to Golden.
“Right now there’s a temporary road in there that was a construction entrance,” Golden said. “The extension of Century Village Boulevard will replace that.”
Golden said funding for the projects would come from a $1.5-million grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S Department of Commerce and the city of Monroe.
“The remaining balance of the money is coming from the city’s capital infrastructure street fund,” Golden said.
Mayo said the city built a temporary road into the Century Village development to give people access to the property.
“I, along with a Century Link representative and a North Delta representative went to Austin to apply for an Economic Development Administrative Grant to build a permanent road on the side,” Mayo said. “They approved the grant for a permanent road of Venable Lane. You’ll have two ways to enter Century Village through the front part and crossing the railroad tracks from the side.”
On Monday, Mayo refuted allegations that the city had held up development of Century Village by not approving permits, inspections among other matters.
Questions about the city’s role in the Century Village development cropped up during Mayo’s regular news conference. Mayo was asked about developers’ claims the city was holding up progress of the development.
Mayo and Golden said the city had remained committed to the development’s completion — as long as it remains in compliance with city codes.
According to Mayo, developers at Century Village had neglected, at times, to adhere to city codes. When the city refused to sign off on non-compliant progress, developers resorted to politically charged statements that the city was stymying the development, according to Mayo.
Meanwhile, Tuesday’s meeting ended with a heated exchange between Mayo and a concerned citizen about the removal of bus stop roofs in Districts 3, 4 and 5. Citizens at City Council meetings often refer to Districts 3, 4 and 5 as the “Southside.”
“My concern is the bus stops, all bus stops are losing their sheds,” said Marie Brown, of Monroe, referring to the covers or roofs of the bus stops.
“People have to sit in the rain and the heat when it’s hot. Is there a reason why we are removing all the sheds and not including a dome to cover them?”
According to Brown, some bus stops have covers but no benches. She also complained of tall grass overtaking bus benches.
City Councilman Eddie Clark explained that some bus stops were temporarily disassembled.
“It’s my understanding, and I saw it personally, where right there by Parkview in District 5, the city was going to remove that one for various reasons,” Clark said. “That came to my attention. I contacted the necessary people, and they put that shelter right back up.”
According to Mayo, vandalism is the main reason why bus stop shelters and public restrooms are in poor shape.
“Vandalism is the word to use,” Mayo said. “That’s what is happening.”
Brown disputed Mayo’s point after returning to the podium. She said, “Okay, I’m going to call it what it is. It’s not true.”
“That is wrong for you to say that,” she added.
“No, you’re wrong,” said Mayo.
“It’s not vandalism, and I’m not going to allow you to say that those districts are tearing up those seats,” Brown said. “That is wrong of you to say that.”
“No, you’re wrong,” said Mayo.
Brown claimed Mayo was simply blaming citizens for problems in city government.
During an interview with The Ouachita Citizen after the meeting, Mayo continued to defend his point about vandalism.
“What is happening is vandalism is causing these problems,” Mayo said. “I’m not saying everyone who sits there is causing it, but a lot of people are causing it.”
Mayo told the newspaper that city crews were not removing the bus stop shelters.