Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What is Infrastructure Anyhow? Effects of Growth on NW Arkansas

Hardly a day goes by that a new sign doesn’t appear somewhere in Washington or Benton County proclaiming that a new subdivision will soon appear on former agricultural land. Land costs have escalated so much that most new subdivisions will automatically be high density.

What does that mean to you and me? It means further stretching of the infrastructure in an area that until a few years ago was rural. Everyone agrees the population of Washington and Benton counties is growing so fast the infrastructure can’t keep up.

What do you think of when you hear the word infrastructure? Most people say traffic or transportation, and public schools. The daily commute to work and back home keeps traffic congestion on everyone’s mind but the list of needs is much longer and more complicated than that.

High-density subdivisions generally have small yards. Where will the children and adults play and exercise? Parks, recreation and open space will be needed.

More schools will have to be built and staffed. More school buses will be on the roads, not to mention the amazing number of parents who drive their children to school in the morning and reverse the procedure in the afternoon. It’s not unusual now to see streets and even highways blocked by vehicles waiting in line to drive onto the school grounds to pick up their child.

Water must be available. Beaver Water District currently has authority to use up to 120 million gallons of water a day from Beaver Lake. At what point does that amount become insufficient?

Increased population equals more sewage. Rural areas are generally not connected to a municipal sewer. When homes were being built on an acre or more of land, septic tanks were a viable solution. High-density subdivisions in rural areas have to take a different approach. Decentralized systems are replacing the traditional septic tank, serving hundreds of homes with one on-site system rather than one septic tank per home. My concern is the future. Who will maintain these systems when the developer has moved on and the homeowner hasn’t even thought about where his sewage goes?

We all want adequate police protection. As the population increases, more officers must be hired and trained. Increased staff will be required back at the station. Overcrowded courts and jails will have to be expanded.

Unincorporated areas usually have volunteer fire departments. Personnel have been trained to fight brush and grass fires and may be called upon occasionally to fight a structure fire.

A high-density subdivision alters the scenario. Consider this: a home is on fire and a call goes out to 911. The volunteers must first rush to the station to get the equipment before they can get to the fire. When they arrive, they are faced with a structure burning that has other homes close by on two sides. Depending on the wind factor, they may even have to protect homes across or down the road. Is there an adequate water supply available to fight the fire? Does the subdivision have hydrants? Does the fire department have the training and equipment to combat such a situation?

Libraries are often taken for granted but contribute greatly to our way of life. Free libraries are as American as apple pie and I, for one, would not want to think about a lack of excellent libraries. More people means more resources will be needed to meet demand. Buildings, employees, books, computers, audio/visual materials – all will need to expand.

The list of infrastructure requirements is almost endless. People are drawn to Northwest Arkansas for the quality of life here but the crush of people is threatening that very quality. The equation is simple: more residents = increased need for infrastructure = additional funding needed. Where is it coming from?

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