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story.lead_photo.caption Reflections of cypress trees are seen from the pier at Smith Park in Miller County, Ark. (Staff photo by Danielle Dupree)

The Miller County Quorum Court approved a resolution Monday to apply for a $500,000 matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to renovate Smith Park.

If the county is approved for the full amount, the ADPT Outdoor Recreation Grant Program would provide $250,000 and the county would provide matching funds and in-kind donations up to $250,000.

"It was grown up bad, but it looks good now I like it," Justice Rodney Watkins said of the park. "I'm for it. There's not anything like it in this area. People are asking for something (recreational) and we've got nothing to give them. I say let's do it."

The vote came after the court's budget and finance committee approved the resolution 3-2 prior to the regular meeting.

Committee members said they were concerned with the language of the resolution, which includes wording that requires the county to accept the full $250,000. Miller County Judge Cathy Hardin Harrison said she spoke with someone in the grant office about the resolution and they said the county doesn't have to take the entire amount.

"We don't have to use all of it," she said. "But if we don't apply for it, we certainly won't get it."

Justice John Haltom, who voted against the measure, said if the county pursued the grant and got the funding, they needed to follow through with the project, which includes restrooms and necessary utilities, eight RV slips, ADA compliance to existing facilities, security lighting and conversion of the current latrine.

"I'm not willing to spend $50,000, $70,000, $100,000 on a park and not give our employees a raise," he said. "I just know how this court operates. We'll get the grant and figure out how to get the money. That worries me that we won't stick with our guns. I just don't believe we will stick with our guns. If we're not going to commit and try to do the whole thing, what have you accomplished?"

The county has $130,500 in the Smith Park Fund and could get an estimated $40,000 for timber at the park. Additional in-kind donations could be through direct monetary donations or donations of service. During the committee meeting, the justices discussed how they will operate and maintain the park, but a decision was not made on how that will be done.

The resolution was tabled in May and was then brought before the Parks & Grant Committee and the Ordinance & Grant Review Committee in June, where it was approved.

The court must submit the application by the end of August. In the next step of the process, a county representative would speak with the state grant committee in October and present the plans for the park.

In other business, the court approved accepting a $21,370 state courts grant for additional security. Emergency doors will be placed at the basement and the north entrance and metal detectors and scanners will also be put in place with the funding.

"With this additional security, we will have someone at all the doors," the judge said, adding that she hopes to have the measures in place within a month.

An additional full-time security employee position was also approved with an annual salary of $29,948.

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