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Council approves funding for Rec Complex

Posted on January 28, 2019

$2.6M to go toward first phase of master plan

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

The El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex will see new fields, lights and other upgrades after a $2.6 million funding request was approved at Thursday night’s El Dorado City Council meeting.

Robert Reynolds, chairman of the El Dorado Works Board, said the EWB recommended extensive changes to the complex’s facilities which would cost an estimated $2,615,000.

The proposed changes would add two new softball fields, including lights, concessions and bathrooms; four new junior soccer fields, along with their lights; and upgrades to the existing fields, including changing out the grass for turf, adding new lights and renovating the batting cages, restrooms and concessions.

The complex is owned by the city, which partners with Union County in funding the complex’s operational budget, each paying for half of the budget.

There was much discussion among the council before the funding request was approved. Along with the funding request came a recommendation from the EWB for both the city and the council to relinquish one position each on the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex Board of Directors.

“You know as well as I do that that has been kind of a mess out there, as far as what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it. We keep putting Band-Aids on it,” said Ward 1 Council member Mike Rice. “We don’t know exactly what the county’s providing with this or anything else. I think we need to be provided this information, given a little time to mull it over, talk to who we need to talk to, before we make a vote on something like this.”

Rice asked that they table the request until the next council meeting, as he had not been notified of a specially called meeting of the complex board where the recommendations were decided on.

Ward 3 Council member Willie McGhee also missed that meeting and said he agreed with Rice that they should table the request for now. He also asked about playground equipment at the facility.

Greg Harrison, chairman of the complex board and District 3 Justice of the Peace on the Union County Quorum Court, said playground equipment that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act had been donated by Clean Harbors and placed behind the Dumas pavilion.

“The problem is getting access to it is not ADAaccessible, and so part of this proposal will help bring that together,” Harrison said. “And we do have an opportunity to contact other businesses in town. There is another playground area that’s just a house and a slide that is quite seasoned, and it could be another opportunity for another business here in town, a larger business, that would be willing to donate another playground area.”

Ward 2 Council member Judy Ward moved to fund the changes while tabling the recommendation for the change in the complex board’s makeup. She said that in her time on the council, she has never heard of one board recommending changes in the makeup of another board.

“You also don’t have many boards coming and recommending a $2.6 million expenditure,” Reynolds said. “This is serious business. We’ve got to up our game.”

Ward 3 Council member Andre Rucks requested that once bids were open for the project, they reach out to minority contractors to place bids.

“Not trying to give them special privileges, but at the same time, I would really like the [complex] board to consider reaching out to minority people that can handle that,” Rucks said.

Harrison agreed, saying it is the complex board’s job to be good stewards of taxpayer money and that they need to be sure to advertise in diverse markets to find the best bang for the city’s buck.

Ward 1 Council member Billy Blann said he expects the complex to generate a lot of revenue for the city, adding that the Boys and Girls Club said they could hold at least 20 tournaments there after the proposed improvements.

“I was here in 2013 when promises were made and, I think, promises were broken and we funded some money, along with a grant there (at the complex). So I was very reluctant,” Blann said. “And I’ve been listening to this young man Greg [Harrison] here talk about it for about a month now, and I attended the meeting today and they made a believer out of me that this is going to be a good deal.”

Ward’s motion moved forward and the council voted on funding the recommendation while tabling changes to the complex board. The vote passed 7 to 1, with Rice being the only vote against the proposal.

A second phase to the complex master plan will begin after the first phase’s implementation. Reynolds said it would be finalized after phase one’s completion so that they may consider anything new that comes to light during the first phase.

“Because everybody who is now doing it was there at the origin, there are going to be some lessons learned that will at least tweak, if not substantially modify phase two,” Reynolds said.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or