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State official provides guidance on city preservation plan

Posted on March 18, 2019

A state historic preservation official who recently came to El Dorado to provide members of the El Dorado Historic District Commission with information about online resources also ended up giving commissioners some direction on how to proceed with the bid process to hire a firm to implement a citywide preservation plan.

Catherine Barrier, certified local government coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, met with commissioners Thursday during an annual visit to the city for ongoing commission training.

Barrier shared information about online resources that are available to historic district commissions and certified local governments, saying that commissioners may not be aware of the wealth of tools and information that is available to them.

She guided the EHDC through an array of websites — including the National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Places, National Alliance of Preservation Commissions and the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office — and various trade and manufacturer’s catalogs and magazines.

Barrier explained that the park service website details standards and guidelines that are followed by historic preservation agencies around the country.

Online training sessions are available on the website and information about the duties and responsibilities about Certified Local Governments, which represent partnerships between local governments, the AHPP and the National Park Service to preserve local, historic resources.

El Dorado is one of the 21 CLG communities in Arkansas.

One of the rules for CLGs, as outlined by the NPS, is to review and participate in the National Register of Historic Places nomination process, Barrier told historic district commissioners.

“If we’re doing something that didn’t originate with you and it’s going before the State Review Board, we send you a letter and you have 60 days to respond,” she explained. “Under state guidelines, you’re supposed to give us a response on what your thoughts are locally.”

She said few cities respond to such letters that are sent out by the AHPP. “A comment that we commonly hear is that, ‘We’re not knowledgeable enough to give you a response.’ I try to direct them to the National Park Service website,” Barrier said.

Elizabeth Eggleston, executive director of the El Dorado Historic District Commission, referred to an instance in which local property owners wrote a National Register nomination for their house. “We reviewed it and discussed it, but we didn’t take that second step and send a letter to you,” Eggleston said.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation website offers a forum that connects CLG communities across the country, Barrier said. “The most important section is what used to be called the ‘Bulletin Board.’ It has questions and comments and you can get information on other people’s experiences (with historic preservation issues),” she said. Barrier said the NPS also compiles a database of historic preservation projects for which grants have been approved. She noted that the AHPP, who administers federal grant funds to local communities, is required to submit the grant applications it approves to the NPS.

Request for proposals

Eggleston said the city has approved $10,000 from the El Dorado Works tax to serve as a match for a CLG application that the EHDC has submitted to the AHPP. A portion of the grant, if approved, would be used to develop a citywide historic preservation plan.

Eggleston has said a match is not required for the grant, but applications that come with financial support from local communities are looked upon more favorably. The city is the actual applicant of the $40,000 grant.

Eggleston previously reported that two firms responded to requests for proposals: The Illinois-based Lakota Group and the DLR Group, which acquired the design team that is working on the Murphy Arts District project. Eggleston said the DLR Group is stepping back from the proposal it submitted for the preservation plan.

“They said the (point person) who was going to work on the project is no longer there,” she explained.

EHDC chairman Linda Rathbun asked if the city should solicit more proposals. “I think that’s a question for your city attorney or purchasing department,” Barrier said. Eggleston said both proposals exceeded $40,000 and the Lakota Group had submitted the higher quote. She later said Lakota has done work in Iowa, Illinois, Hawaii and Texas.

She said RFPs were sent to eight qualified firms and two responded. “What do other cities do when they only have one proposal?” Eggleston asked. “If they met the scope of work, then they ordered the contract, but I don’t know what your city policy is,” Barrier said.

Commissioner Larry Combs, former El Dorado mayor and City Council member, said similar issues have arisen with other city projects. “If the city only receives one proposal and it meets qualifications, we accept it or re-advertise for bids,” Combs said. “You have the option to re-bid it if you want to or if you don’t think the money is right.”

Eggleston said the amount of the proposals was of concern, noting that she had based the RFPs on a preservation plan that was done by the city of Little Rock. “That was $44,000,” she said, adding that one of the proposals that was submitted included a 10 percent contingency and the other, a 15 percent contingency.

Barrier said that if the proposals meet all applicable requirements, the grant amount could be adjusted accordingly if the project comes in under budget. “We’ll put a schedule in the grant agreement … if you decide to rebid it,” she said.

Commissioners said they would study the matter further.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at