Opposition grows against Paragould western bypass

Opposition grows against Paragould western bypass

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Opposition to the proposed western bypass in Paragould continues to grow.

Opponents recently held a meeting where about 55 people discussed the sacrifices they would have to make to carry through with the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department's plan.

The department's proposal would bypass Highways 49 and 412 to alleviate the amount of semis passing through town.

But residents said the project would interrupt a thriving residential area. They implore the department to reconsider its current plan for the bypass, especially the proposed interchange system.

"We were devastated," said Paragould homeowner Justin Ethridge. "It's not only just a few houses, it's not just a couple neighborhoods, but it's the whole community. I drive a bus for Greene County Tech and it's affecting our bus routes, it's affecting our school."

Ethridge and his wife built their dream home off Highway 358 and have lived there for a little more than a year. However, he said their "forever home" could soon be demolished if the highway department follows through with its current plan for the western bypass. 

"As homeowners, we're sitting here in limbo and don't really know what's going on," Ethridge said. "There's some trees I'd like to cut down, do a few things around the house, but I don't want to do anything if they're going to tear down my house."

Right down the street from Ethridge sits another neighborhood that the proposal would affect, but not in the same way.

"What concerns the people in this particular subdivision is the property values, the sale of homes," Paragould homeowner Marilyn Jetton said. 

She said she is now not only a concerned homeowner but also a land-locked property owner. Jetton and her husband developed their and Ethridge's subdivisions. 

"We just want to protect this area," Jetton said. "We feel like it's a growing part of Paragould and we just want to protect what we've all invested."

Many in the area feel the same way. Jetton has copies of hundreds of letters, from homeowners to lawmakers, expressing their opposition to the highway department's current proposal.

Jetton said the department has given residents three options: modify the interchange, do away with it or move it westward.

"We're just looking for the best option," Jetton said. "We want to do what's best for all of the residents. Certainly we wouldn't take any delight in moving it off one person on to another. We just hope that the highway department looks at what's best for the majority of the people involved and makes a good decision."

"If there's more cost-effective ways for the town and highway department for it to be moved to another location, I don't see why that shouldn't be done," Ethridge said. 

At this point, homeowners said they just want answers from the highway department.

"We thank them for listening to us, but if they could just get on the same page and let us know what's going on," Ethridge said. "I've probably talked to five or six different people in Little Rock, a couple locals with the highway department and it seems nobody's ever on the same page."

Jetton said highway department officials have not yet given residents a timeline but did say they were going to come back soon for another public meeting.

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