Council seeks to purchase land for police department

PRAIRIE GROVE -- Prairie Grove City Council voted 7-1 last week to make an offer to purchase the vacant land next to the police department for $325,000 and also approved the preliminary plat for a new single-family residential subdivision off Butler Road.

If the land purchase is finalized, the city could use the property, 1.23 acres, to either expand the police department or build a separate standalone building for police.

Mayor David Faulk said he has been in discussions with Dwight Bartholomew representing Seven Oaks Developers, owners of the property, about an acceptable price for the land.

"I was hoping to wiggle the price down but was meeting deadends everywhere we went," Faulk told council members May 15 as they discussed whether to purchase the land.

He said he has looked at vacant property on the bypass but prices are in the millions for several acres of land.

Larry Oelrich, administrative assistant, said the city could build a 30,000-square-foot police department on the land if it chose to go that route. The current building, which includes the police department, district courtroom and district court offices, has 6,000 square feet.

Oelrich said the city would use general reserve funds to buy the land.

City council member Brea Gragg voted against the motion, saying she thought the land should be reserved for commercial space.

"That's one of the last remaining properties for business development off the bypass," Gragg said.

Council member Rick Ault disagreed, noting he considered city facilities as commercial development and thought an expansion or new police department would bring people off the bypass and then onto the downtown area.

The city last discussed purchasing a portion of this land in January 2105, according to Enterprise-Leader archives.

At the time, the landowner, then Five Star Land Holdings, LLC, offered to sell .34 acre of the land bordering the south side of the police station to the city for $45,000, which came out to about $132,300 per acre. Council members then thought the price seemed high.

County property records show that Five Star purchased the 1.32 acres in 2012 for $72,000. Seven Oaks Developers became the owner in October 2022 with a quit claim deed.

SELAH MEADOWS SUBDIVISION

According to the preliminary plat, the new Selah Meadows subdivision will be located off Butler Road on 43 acres and will have 150 buildable lots.

Prairie Grove Planning Commission forwarded the preliminary plat to the council with its recommendation for approval.

Gragg, who also is a member of the commission, said the developer agreed to make some changes to the plat. Butler Road will be widened on the side of the development and a stub out will be built between lots 20 and 21 for future connectivity if needed.

Blake Murray with Crafton Tull engineering firm said the development will have about two acres of green space that would be suitable for a city park. The developer does not plan to "touch" any of the wetlands found on the property.

The property is zoned R-1.75. Lots in the subdivision range from .16 acre to .36 acre. The larger lots are located on a cul-de-sac. Access to the development will be two entrances off Butler Road.

POLICE POLICY CHANGES

Police Chief Chris Workman recommended several changes to the police policy. One allows officers to have facial hair. Another provides certificate pay for those officers who go on to a higher level of education and the third change provides a 1% increase for officers when they are serving as a field training officer for a new employee.

A proposal to provide a hiring bonus was tabled for more discussion and to work out details.

The chief said he continues to look at what other departments are doing so that Prairie Grove can remain as competitive as possible when it comes to recruiting new officers.

Workman said out of all the changes, his officers were probably most interested in the one that allows facial hair. Other departments also are allowing facial hair but Workman said Prairie Grove's policy will be a little stricter than most.

Facial hair must be kept nice, neat and looking professional, "not like ZZ Top or an undercover officer," Workman said.

The council approved the changes. Council member Sue Cluck abstained from voting because her husband is a police officer.