Mayor lauds health of the city

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In his State of the City Address Monday evening, Mayor Butch Berry reminded everyone the city began 2017 with a spending freeze and all departments diligently complied with the intent of re-stabilizing the city’s finances. As a result, the city is much healthier at the beginning of 2018, as the city was able to put money back into reserves, which reverses a longstanding trend of depleting city savings. In addition, the city will soon codify its strategy of paying off the water and sewer bonds, and because of the sewer rate increase and implementation of the Infrastructure Improvement fee, the city is in compliance with bond covenants and state law for the first time in 11 years.

Berry said the belt-tightening has made a difference, and the city will soon have money to address infrastructure needs.

Berry stated in 2017, the Police Department had 1660 calls, issued 835 citations and made 277 arrests. There were 58 noise citations issued.

The Fire Department responded to 117 fire and rescue incidents, while EMS was called to 1468 incidents. ESFD got a contract renewed to provide ambulance service to western Carroll County, worth $250,000 annually. ESFD also hired new billing and collection companies, which have increased revenue.

ESFD also hosts an annual EMS education conference that has become important to first responders throughout the state.

Public Works started the year with the challenge of replacing a sewer line under Center Street. ESPW also applied 100 tons of asphalt to streets around the city, and replaced sewer mains. Their plan is to repair leaks in the main lines to reduce water loss.

Transit gave more than 115,000 rides and traveled 185,138 miles. The department added bike racks to buses and is moving toward installing solar panels at two sites. Berry noted our Transit Department is the only one in the state that is totally self-supporting.

The City Advertising and Promotion Commission saw the largest tax collection in its history at more than $1.4 million. This represented a 35 percent increase over collections in 2010. As a result of their promotions, an estimated two billion people around the world read something about Eureka Springs as the CAPC continued its digital push.

The Parks Department continued its improvements at Lake Leatherwood City Park. The new playground continued to draw quite a crowd, and campgrounds and mini-cabins were improved. LLCP was host to the state high school bicycle races for the second year, and new downhill trails are in the planning. The revenue base at LLCP continued to increase and stabilize.

Berry said no review of 2017 would be complete without mentioning strides made to achieve compliance with regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. City meetings moved to a compliant location, a complaint committee was instituted with procedures for assessing complaints, and the draft of a self-assessment plan is in progress.

The Mayor’s Task Force on Economic Development worked with the Winrock International Foundation to conduct retail analysis of the area and develop a plan for workforce development. It made progress on creating a tech and innovation center, recruited two well-paying non-tourism businesses, and worked on two other major projects for diversifying the local economy.

Also, the city was awarded $250,000 for overlaying Hillside and Grand Avenues. Soon bids will be opened for repairing the tunnel under the north end of Armstrong, and Berry said prospects look good for a grant for water line improvements, which will cost the city nothing.