Historic District Commission seeks funds for Retta Brown neighborhood investigation


The El Dorado Historic District Commission on Thursday approved a contract to conduct another survey of cultural resources.

Elizabeth Eggleston, Executive Director of the EHDC, also clarified and provided additional details on the changes to the terms of a state grant that will be used to cover the cost of the project.

The EHDC and the Austin, TX office of Terracon Consultant Services, Inc., are working to complete an Investigation and Determination of Eligibility (DOE) inventory for 326 properties in the Mellor subdivisions , McKinney, Bodenhamer, Forest Lawn and Eastridge.

The survey and inventory will help determine if the subdivisions are eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places as Local Historic Districts and / or individually listed properties.

Work has continued since March, and Eggleston said Thursday that fieldwork was nearing completion.

The project is funded by the largest portion – $ 42,500 – of a $ 49,049 Certified Local Government (CLG) grant that was awarded to the city in 2019 by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP).

It is the largest CLG grant ever awarded in the state.

El Dorado is one of 21 cities in Arkansas to participate in the CLG program.

CLGs partner with other CLG communities in the state, the AHPP and the National Parks Service to preserve historic resources at the local level.

In 2020, the city received another grant from the CLG for a DOE investigation into the neighborhoods of Retta Brown and Country Club Colony, both of which were recommended as projects in a city-wide preservation plan. written in 2020.

The grant was $ 22,648, of which $ 9,660 was to be allocated to the Retta Brown subdivision and $ 6,440 to the CCC.

Eggleston said last month that requests for proposals (RFPs) had been sent to companies to conduct DOE investigations and that she had received inquiries about the project.

August 22 was the deadline for submitting requests for proposals.

In an update last week, Eggleston informed the historic commissioners that she had not received any proposals by the deadline and she sought advice from the AHPP.

Eggleston said she also checked with an Austin-based conservation / design company, who said they were unable to take on the project and recommended Cox | McLain Environmental Consulting, Inc .

Cox | McClain would conduct a DOE investigation and collect oral histories for projects in Little Rock.

“(Cox | McClain) said they could not conduct the investigation based on the amounts suggested by the AHPP,” Eggleston told Historic District Commissioners, explaining that the company uses FileMaker by Apple, an app cross-platform relational database.

She said the details, including costs, of the contract had been negotiated and incorporated into a preliminary agreement that was to be considered by the EHDC and AHPP.

The AHPP revised the terms of the grant, agreeing to pay $ 15,932 per Cox | McClain application, to cover the DOE’s investigation for Country Club Colony.

State officials also suggested that the EHDC resubmit the Retta Brown project for the next round of CLG grants.

Eggleston explained Thursday that the amount of the CLG grant had not been reduced, as previously reported by the News-Times.

She said the AHPP had agreed to reallocate more funds for the DOE investigation to Country Club Colony (task A) and that the Retta Brown investigation (task B) would be removed from the terms of the $ 22,648 grant. .

She said the remainder of the grant will be split between administrative services, including the remuneration of the executive director, for the EHDC ($ 4,000); over $ 2,300 for travel and training for EHDC staff and commissioners; and $ 300 for annual membership fees for local, state, and national preservation programs (the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society, Preserve Arkansas, and the National Alliance of Historic Preservation Commissions).

Eggleston said she also spoke with state officials and Cox | McClain about the Retta Brown project, saying that if the EHDC could provide the $ 9,660, the company could complete the projects. two projects simultaneously.

“There is a time constraint and because of the time constraint I don’t know if it’s going to work,” she said.

Eggleston noted that the El Dorado Works Board and El Dorado City Council have agreed to provide $ 10,000 in consideration for a $ 42,000 grant that was awarded in 2019 to pay for the city-wide preservation survey.

Matching funds came from the El Dorado Works Tax, a one-cent municipal sales tax for economic development, municipal infrastructure, and quality of life projects recommended and approved by ISF.

Sara Coffman, EHDC and ISF member, advised Eggleston to prepare a proposal to present to ISF and request that the item be placed on the agenda of the next regular ISF meeting, which is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at the town hall council chamber.

“(The cost of the Retta Brown survey) may change because that’s what the state has designated for the project (Retta Brown). We have increased the amount per structure, so there will likely be an increase,” he said. Eggleston said, adding that she will check with Cox | McClain on this.

She also said research had already been done and maps developed for the properties to be surveyed in the Retta Brown neighborhood, including the former elementary school of the same name.

Eggleston said she would try to prepare a proposal for the ISF by Tuesday.

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