Mayor Jimmy Clark gave the State of the City Address at the recent Heber Springs City Council meeting. The Mayor said the annual budget for the city is a little over million dollars. Projects that are in the works are Spring Park, where they are trying to turn it into a pristine park again with new lighting and new bathrooms. They will address the wellhouse drainage.He is trying to get approval (from the Corps of Engineers) to put in new volleyball courts, pads for food trucks and lighting at Sandy Beach.
At the Aquatic Center at the Community Center they are working on putting in walls to separate the lobby from the swimming areas.
“We will have completion dates on these projects so we can see them come to fruition.” said Clark
“I can’t thank the Parks Department and their employees enough for the hard work they so to provide over 800 kids, every year, with baseball, basketball, volleyball and swimming activities. They do a wonderful job!” said Mayor Clark.
Fire Chief Jason Robitaille and Fire Marshall/Code Enforcement Doug Perry have been very busy and have put out a challenge to identify vacant and burn out properties. They have identified seven burnouts and have received approval to take three down. There are about 80 vacant and unsightly properties, on one half of the town, and they have reached out to the owners to clean up the properties.
Planning and Zoning, they are working on a Storm Ordinance and are getting close to completing that.
One of the first goals for all departments is training. All department heads are working on safety procedures and training. This includes bringing in rural fire departments together on safety, procedures and training.
There are a lot of roads in need of repair, they are behind due to personnel changes but hope to be off and running by spring. They will be addressing a lot of drainage issues. They are working on a $330,000 overlay project, partially funded by a $250,000 grant. They will apply for that grant again this year. That only covers about 1.5 to 2 miles of road. Will be starting on sidewalk repair downtown in front of the assessor’s office. FEMA claims are also being worked on and some bridge repair. The state highway department will also be working on an overlay project from 7th street, Hwy 110 and Hwy 25B. The city will be working on a facelift on downtown, this year.
In Sanitation, there is debate on making Main Street three lanes or diagonal parking. They are looking at another garbage truck to go with the two already in place. They have fixed every backup light, alarm, turn signal lights on every truck that they have. Clark praised Public Works for working hard on this. They have worked with Waste Connections on safety training.
In the Police Department, they are working on figuring out how to start replacing some of the 17 cars they currently have. CID had an emergency hire, Phil Burnham, has joined with 46 years of experience. He replaced Brian Haile when he took over as Chief.
The airport just finished a 1.5 million dollar rehab to the runway. “We keep increasing our base aircraft. A lot of people want to have their planes here. It has also had an increase in pilot training. Chris McClung, at the airport has done a great job on working on annuals and on repairs.” said Clark. The entire project of the runway was state and federal grants.
“My heart and my biggest, most proud moment right now is the team we have assembled. Our department heads are working together so well, working with the council which is engaged and they care about this community and want to be involved. Each council member is visiting with department heads to have a better understanding of the big picture.” said Clark. “Our Police, Fire, First responders, Dispatch, they give up their families, they are 24/7, give up a lot of their own time in service to this community and deserve great recognition.”
“We have set a lot of goals for ourselves this year. A lot of projects. But we have set completion dates. First Electric has helped them be involved with Uncommon Communities, a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation project. We are working on a lot of things to improve Heber Springs. We have new businesses coming in. Our industries are at capacity.” Clark told the audience.
The tax base had about a two percent increase and have been able to make bond payments on time.
They will possibly pay off a couple years early.
“I feel the finances of the city are sound. It won’t be an easy year but we will manage our monies to complete this projects. I see a new attitude with our employees, they are excited.” said Clark. “The city is in the service business.”
In closing Clark said, “I look forward to a great year.” He thanked the council for their service and thinks everyone will see progress this year.
Fire Chief Jason Robitaille wanted to reiterate what the Mayor had said and has a five year plan in place.
“I’m excited with contact in the community and look forward to inviting community members if they have a need, our door is open.” Robitaille said.
Not to be outdone, Police Chief Brian Haile said, “I plan on leading these guys in a good, positive direction, get some new equipment and do a good job for the city.”
Mayor Clark thanked Raymond McCann for his volunteering for the city this year with the lighting at Spring Park at Christmas. Everyone agreed at how nice the park looked during the holidays.
The council also voted, in old business, on leaving the nepotism policy as is. The policy, which was read by council member Paula Sporn, states that there can be no relatives hired in the same department. This was after much discussion.
Mayor Clark said the latest audit from 2017 was great. There was only one incident finding relating to competitive bids were not taken for a purchase that was over $20,000 and was not published in the paper. “It was an oversight on our part,” explained Clark, “We had ordered 10 sets of gear, which pushed it over the $20,000.” The council had appropriated for five sets of gear and then they ordered 10 sets. They have since put procedures in place to prevent this from happening again.
In the supervisor’s reports, the police department showed a total arrests for December at 164. Arrests were made in a variety of charges. The highest were shoplifting and public intoxication.
The next item was to clarify the election results from 2018. They just needed to have in the minutes that they were certified.
The council voted on the procedures for the council meetings to be held on the third Thursday at 6 p.m. at city hall.
The council then voted on two encroachments, one on Nicole Circle and one on S. 7th street.
The electrical issues at Spring Park were addressed with the discussion that the wiring is so old it is not strong enough for what is needed.
In closing the Mayor said, “All we do for each other, as far as all of the non-profits and the caring we have for each other, how open we are, the community needs to understand if we don’t know there is a problem, we can’t fix it. We are open and do not take problems as criticisms but as challenges. Everyone is important to us.”
Sharon Williams was recognized for her continuing hours certified by the Municipal League.