The Proposed Permanent Closing of Market Street between Locust and Main

Dear Members and Friends of Searcy First United Methodist,

Grace to you in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This communication is to share some information with you that should be helpful. Our Board of Trustees has officially requested of the Searcy City Council that Market Street, between Locust and Main Streets, be closed; and, become the property of Searcy First United Methodist Church. The Council has calendared a public hearing on the matter for Tuesday, February 11, 6:00 p.m. at City Hall. The Council will vote on the request at their regularly scheduled meeting that same night following the public hearing. Our Trustees have a civil engineer and surveyor locating all public utilities and having releases signed by the utilities. We will see how the City Council votes and move forward from there.

The primary reason the Trustees have made the request is for the safety of our children. We operate a five-day-a-week preschool and day care for 100 children in the Children and Youth Building on the south side of Market. We have children crossing Market every day to come to the "office side" of Market. Our vision is to operate a five-day-a-week after school care ministry for 25 – 50 elementary-age children beginning next fall inside the new building on the north side of Market. Many trips will be made to and from the playground across Market. The children are well supervised, but every time they cross the street, there is risk. Closing Market Street is first and foremost a safety issue. Remember, we first studied the possibility of a skywalk over Market for safety purposes. That component was removed from our plans due to costs (nearly $1 million). The safety question is not new.

From a community side, this portion of Market has been closed for thirteen months now. We are told that no complaints have been registered at City Hall regarding the closure. People have learned to do without this stretch of Market. We are not aware of any negative impact from law enforcement or fire department or ambulance service due to the current closure. The point being, Searcy has done fine with this portion of Market St. closed.

The closing of Market would unify our church campus. It would make our grounds feel and function like a campus. Having a new green space would be remarkable. The space could be utilized for church and community purposes.

I'm sure there are people in the community, and likely within our congregation, who will see this matter differently. That's OK. We are in America and are in the practice of agreeing to disagree and making the best decisions possible for the common good. I simply ask you to prayerfully consider how the proposed closure of Market between Locust and Main could increase safety for children without negatively impacting the daily lives and commerce of the citizens of Searcy.

I am available, as are the members of the Board of Trustees, to talk with anyone with a desire to discuss this item.

Sincerely,

Rev. David Orr