The price for having a civil engineering firm develop a 20-year master plan for the city of Searcy went up.

The Searcy City Council moved forward Tuesday with the planning proposal, which is estimated to take between 12 to 15 months, agreeing to pay Crafton Tull a $335,000 “fixed fee” for the work, which will include public meetings for input.

Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne had been given permission by the council at a special meeting to negotiate with Crafton Tull, which has offices in Arkansas and Oklahoma, with the cost of the work at that time expected to be $300,000.

Councilman David Morris called the $335,000 a “big price tag.” Osborne said, “It is a lot of money; fortunately it’s a 20-year plan. We need a map to follow. We have to do something.”

City Planner Richard Stafford said the city would be billed on a monthly basis based on percentage of completion estimated by Crafton Tull each billing cycle. For example, if one month there were several types of meetings, the bill may be a little higher based on what was being done. By the time the project is handed over to the city, Stafford said the city would have paid for it.

“It’s a ton of money. It’s a lot; I don’t discount that,” Stafford said. “The mayor’s point of it being, it’s a 20-year plan. And I also want to just mention to you that it’s a reasonable price compared to the same services other cities have done.”

Morris said he has had some residents ask him why the city had to go outside the city for this project proposal. He said what he basically told them was “to my knowledge, we never had a long-term plan for the city of Searcy. We had a master street plan.

“Our city engineer is covered up right now as he explained, all the various cuts in the streets and things of that nature with all the utilities going in, the utility work getting done. Our city planner is getting started; obviously, doing a good job [after being hired this year]. He’s got his hands full, but to bring someone in that is professional to have a bird’s eye view of the city and comes in with no preconceived notion or knowledge of the city, to look at us, in my opinion, is very good. I think we need to do this and I think it’s possibly something we should have done.”

He said the city and city parks have seen “a lot of growth.”

“I feel very comfortable with doing this,” Morris said. “I feel comfortable after checking with some of the people I know that I served with and mayors in other towns.

“We need to have a plan, a vision out there, like every business does and every household.”

Council member Don Raney said he doesn’t disagree with Morris but asked where is the money coming from to pay for it. Osborne said it would come out of Fund 14, set up for the eight-year, 1-cent sales and use tax passed in 2014.

“I am working with the A&P Commission to have them pay for the parks part [of the planning proposal], which is $110,000,” Osborne said. “That would bring the city’s obligation down to $225,000.”

Council member Logan Cothern said he feels a lot better about the planning proposal after looking at how much public input will be involved. At the April special meeting, Stafford said Crafton Tull was proposing walking tours around the city, three steering group meetings and three public meetings.

The city also paid the firm $15,000 last year, when it conducted a visioning workshop last fall that it held with 18 “community members of varying backgrounds and professions.”

Crafton Tull also has conducted planning in Rogers, Conway, Batesville and Little Rock. “They are currently doing two of the master plans in Sherwood,” Stafford said.

The first part of the plan for Searcy will be surveying the current conditions of drainage, roadways, sidewalks, utilities, parks, trails, facilities and more. The next phase will be a series of town hall meetings and surveys to get the community’s input on needs and wants of residents. The information that is collected in both phases will be combined with input from engineers, architects and other professionals to come up with a master plan.

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