Friday, February 04, 2011

TOP STORY > >Mayor reports Jacksonville is doing very well

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, in the state-of-the-city report he presented to the council Thursday, called 2010 a year of extremes that left him in awe.

He said the city won the coveted Abilene Trophy for its strong support of Little Rock Air Force Base, but loss its effort to annex acreage to the north and south of the city to “everything in between.”

“In 2010, Pulaski County Special School District went to court in an effort to achieveunitary status,” the mayor explained. “The court’s decision is still forthcoming. Should it be favorable, it will provide Jacksonville with the opportunity to have its own standalone district.”

Fletcher added, “This is pivotal to the growth and prosperity of our city. While there are issues that will always face the city, there is absolutely none more important than the educational opportunities a city provides its citizens and their children.”

The mayor said the city has not just been sitting by waiting for the courts, but has made educational moves on its own.

In 2010 the city saw the construction of the Jacksonville-Little Rock Air Force Base University Center that is providing educational opportunities for base members and city residents. Five schools either are or will be holding classes at the center. They are Webster University, Park University, University of Arkansas School of Operations Management, Arkansas State University-Beebe and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

Also in 2010, the mayor said, the base “worked with the city to address older, dilapidated school buildings by presenting a plan to replace two local elementary schools with a new one on base property.”

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School will open a school on base to serve about 400 middle-school students. That school will open later this year.

Fletcher said, “The new school will be located in the old Officers Club, which was slated for demolition, but LRAFB has donated use of the building to give area students an alternative” to the county schools.

In his 39-page report, the mayor also pointed out that the city had spent most of 2010 staying in competition for a possible move by the state fair. “The city is also working to acquire land for economic-development purposes on Wooten Road, with the hopes it will become the new home to the Arkansas State Fair. The Arkansas Livestock Commission is in the process of conducting a study of the proposed sites and we should be receiving it any day,” the mayor said.

The city received word at the end of 2010 that the Conestoga wood plant would close this month displacing close to 50 employees. “It is a call on the city’s part to promote with more vigor,” Fletcher said, “our industrial park to attract more job opportunities for our citizens.”

Even though the plant closing hurt, 2010 did bring some positive economic news.

The mayor said the old Walmart building, which sat vacant for about 10 years, became the home to the Memphis Flea Market.

“In nine months, it has brought thousands of people into our city, befitting our local businesses with increased traffic, and the base air show and open house, Thunder Over the Rock, brought about 225,000 people in our city and was a huge success,” the mayor said.

He closed by saying that he felt seeds of opportunity were being sowed and that the city had a very promising future reaping the “harvests of prosperity.”

Highlights from the 2010 report included:

The city’s garage kept busy maintaining a fleet of more than 250 vehicles, putting in nearly 2,500 hours of labor at a cost of $74,515. Parts needed to keep vehicles on the road ran more than $104,000.

The district court saw an increase of cases going from 12,056 in 2009 up to 14,832 in 2010.

During the year, the city hired 51 full-time employees, 28 part-time employees and another 55 seasonal employees. The turnover rate remained steady at 36 percent.

In 2010, the 911 Center became its own department, no longer under the direction of the police department. The center averaged 341 calls per day.

The animal shelter handled 2,176 animals during the year and a record-setting 915 dogs and cats were adopted out.

The fire department responded to 2,640 fire alarms and 2,841 emergency-medical calls. Fire loss for the year was estimated at just slightly more than $380,000, while fire savings, based on the department’s quick responses, were estimated at $2.6 million.

The police department saw a 22 percent increase in calls for service, going from 37,672 in 2009 to 47,895 in 2010, but saw an 18 percent drop in violent crimes. It had a 49.7 percent clearance rate on those cases compared to a 40 percent rate in 2009.

The city issued 224 building permits for 2010 with a total value of $20.4 million.

The new farmers market pavilion, just south of the community center, opened in May 2010 at a cost of $145,500. Construction also started on the multi-million dollar police and fire training center off Marshall Road.

For the city library, 2010 was the first full year in its new building. Checked-out items increased by 11,455, hitting 203,310 and the library had more than 142,000 visitors.

The city’s aquatic park, the Splash Zone, had a record season, bringing in $205,022.

The city street sweeper logged more than 9,300 miles on local roadways during the year.

The beautification department planted 1,286 plants, trees and shrubs, picked up 4,636 bags of trash and 21 used tires on city rights of way and cleaned nearly 13,000 feet of drainage ditches during 2010.

The sanitation department collected 1.35 million pounds of recyclables in 2010, saving the city $16,869 in landfill fees. Revenues from the sale of those recyclable items came to $92,466.

More than 7,750 tons of garbage was collected from city residents during 2010 costing more than $165,000 in landfill fees.

The senior center delivered almost 41,000 meals during the year to homebound individuals.

The North Metro Medical Center had 38,537 outpatient visits, 21,917 emergency room visits and 2,538 admissions.

The city launched a new interactive website during the year.

During the year, the city council adopted 17 ordinances and approved two rezonings.