New sidewalks coming to E. Columbia Street; mayor issues updates on city water projects : KZHE News Blog
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New sidewalks coming to E. Columbia Street; mayor issues updates on city water projects

by J.D. Bailey on 09/29/20

New sidewalks are again slated for installation near a well-traveled Magnolia city street.  

The Magnolia City Council on Monday unanimously approved a bid for new sidewalks along a nearly one-mile stretch of E. Columbia Street. The low bid of $337,785 was submitted by New Orleans-based contractor J Con Inc. City Council members Larry Talley, Jeff White, Steve Nipper, and James Jefferson all voted in favor of the bid. Aldermen Jamie Waller, Steve Crowell, and Kelli Souter were not present.  

The new paths will stretch from the corner of Jackson Street near Magnolia Regional Medical Center eastward to E. Columbia’s intersection with E. North Street. The sidewalks will only be built on one side of the street, according to Magnolia Mayor Parnell Vann, but will alternate between the north side of the street and the south side of the street along the 0.9-mile stretch. 

The north side of E. Columbia will contain sidewalks up until its intersection with N. Dudney (0.3 miles), while the new path will be built on the south side of E. Columbia (0.6 miles) until it meets with E. North. The E. Columbia Street sidewalk project is one of many approved by the council over the past decade. 

“We’ve been doing sidewalks for a number of years to get our folks out of the streets and walk in a safe area,” said Vann as he addressed the council on Monday. 

The city received a total of three bids for the E. Columbia sidewalk work, according to the mayor. The other two bids came in at $362,380.68 and $461,720. The winning bidder, J Con Inc., is also currently performing other sidewalk work in the city.  

The E. Columbia Street work is not expected to begin until fall 2021.  

The sidewalk project will be funded mostly through state monies, with the city only paying only 20% of the total costs, according to the mayor. With the low bid accepted Monday by the City Council, Magnolia’s city government will only be on the hook for $67,557. The city still has one more upcoming sidewalk endeavor on its agenda -- a project along High School Drive -- but after that, no more sidewalk work is expected in the near future.  

“We have one that we agreed to work on with [Magnolia] High School, then we’re going to take a break on sidewalks for a while to focus that money on jobs,” said Vann. 

The mayor on Monday also gave a brief update on Magnolia’s water treatment system, stating that the Sterling Lacy Water Purification Plant on W. Greene Street has begun pumping water derived from Lake Columbia. The city over the past two years, with the aid of a $200,000 Arkansas Economic Development Commission grant, has rehabilitated the plant, thus allowing the lake to again supply water to Magnolia water customers instead of overtaxing the local aquifer wells. 

The mayor said his plan going forward includes using the wells during the warmer months of the year and purified water from Lake Columbia during the cooler months. The mayor also stated that the new “readless” water meters have been fully installed across the city. The $1 million system, which was approved by the City Council for purchase in March 2019, enables the Magnolia Water Utilities office to monitor water usage around the clock. 

The move to the new meters hopes to eliminate water theft and increase income in the city’s water department, as well as better detect leaks.  

The 201 E. North water office is still closed to the public over virus concerns, but customers can pay their water and sewage bills at the office’s drive-thru window during business hours or by night dropoff, by phone at 1-855-213-2477, online at, or by automatic bank draft. The city water office will also activate and shut off customers’ water, as well as irrigation systems, at no charge. 

Customers who wish to turn off their water on their own can do so at their own risk, but they may also be liable for any damage to the electric meter head, should it be damaged. The cost to repair a water head is $300, according to the mayor. 

 In other Magnolia City Council News:

 – An ordinance was unanimously passed to refinance a $3.7 million 1999 City Water Resource bond to free up $1.5 million in additional funds needed to help fund a $2.2 million water line replacement project throughout much of the north and west sides of Magnolia. The past interest rate on the bond was 3.5%. The rate gained Monday upon the refunding of the old bond and issuance of the new water improvement bonds was 2.07%, according to Jason Holsclaw of Stevens Inc. 

The project includes the installation of new, non-corrosive main water lines near Lawton Circle, Highland Circle, Hazel, Joy, Partee, Monzingo, Calhoun, West Main, Kelso, North Height, Virginia, Ross, Doris, Clay, Pecan, and parts of South Madison, South Washington, and South Jefferson.  

– Velma George and Nelda Smith were re-appointed as commissioners on the Magnolia Housing Authority board.

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