GETTING A MAKEOVER: Little Rock city directors haven't been in their chambers for years. Brian Chilson

The Little Rock Board of Directors got booted out of their regular meeting chambers when the COVID-19 pandemic protocols urged social distancing. For more than three years, the group has met in temporary locations where they could spread out. Now, residents are asking when they’ll stop filling up public meeting spaces and get back in their chambers.

The board recently approved two renovation expenses — a $322,622 allocation for construction and a $173,342.48 allocation for new technology. City Clerk Susan Langley told board members Tuesday that after the contracts are set, the renovation will take about two months. Langley said we can expect meetings to be held back in the chambers at City Hall around the end of May. The renovation will be paid for with money from the city’s 2022 general budget.

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Langley told board members that the layout of the chambers will be rotated 90 degrees. Instead of entering from the side of the room, the door will be at the new back of the room. Here’s a tentative layout plan.

City of Little Rock
CHAMBER CHANGES: This rendering shows the possible new arrangement after renovations.

With the new layout, visitors will have easier access to come and go. The members’ desks are also expected to be spread out a bit. Overall, there will be better use of the room, Langley said.

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The approved construction contract went to HYDCO, a North Little Rock contractor that Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde started in the ‘70s. Hyde’s son now leads the company and Hyde does not have any involvement, he said. HYDCO was the lowest bid, city officials said. Jay Stanley and Associates will be under contract to replace audio and visual equipment.