Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TOP STORY >> Area officials hope for stellar new year

Leader staff writer

Only a few elected officials in The Leader’s coverage area make New Year’s resolutions, but most who were interviewed want to see projects completed or started and are hoping that 2015 will be a stellar year.

And then there was the tongue-in-cheek response of state Rep.-elect Tim Lemons (R- Cabot).

He said his New Year’s resolution is “to drop three sizes in my waist, or grow 6 inches in height.”

Lemons continued, “There are 174 steps from my parking spot to the House chamber at the Capitol. Maybe the three-size reduction is possible.”

He joked, “The height? Probably not.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley are also hoping to get healthier.

Fletcher said, “It’s my intention this next year to eat better and to exercise and spend more time with my family than what I do.”

Staley said, “I am going to make more time for my family and kids. As most everyone is trying to do, I am also going to make time to work out and get healthier.”

The sheriff added, “I am going to continue to work hard for the citizens of Lonoke County and continue to serve them in a professional manner. My primary goal is to continue to be tough on crime and keep the citizens informed about what goes on in our community.”

Ward Mayor Art Brooke said he wants to do more in 2015 by following through with some big ideas like sewer- system improvements, paving more streets and “beefing up” the city’s parks and recreation department — possibly with help from the one-cent sales tax increase passed by voters in November.

The mayor also said he would continue to work diligently for Ward residents. “I give them 100 percent, that’s the best thing I can give them, that’s what I do.”

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, state Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

But Hillman said, in her sights for 2015, is beginning the construction of a new public library.

In November, voters passed a temporary 1.3-mill increase that will fund a $6 million facility. For the owners of a $150,000 home, the increase equates to about $39 more than the 50.8-mill property tax they were paying before.

The increase would also be a hike of about $13 for every $10,000 in accessed value of a home or personal property. Accessed value is about 20 percent of what a house or personal property is worth.

Hillman told The Leader on Monday that the city attorney is researching whether Sherwood should hire someone to consult it on the bond project.

She said last week, “We anticipate moving forward on our new library (in 2015). That’s exciting. Hopefully, by this time next year, we’ll be well on our way.”

English said her focus is and has been, for a while, to develop workforce-training programs.

She wants to see Arkansas families have the tools they need to make better wages that will improve their lives and the economy.

About New Year’s resolutions, Cypert said, “If you don’t make them, you can’t break them.”

City projects that are set for completion in 2015 include:

 The new $2.6 million, 23,000-square-foot public library in the old Knight’s grocery store on West Main Street.

 The $13.5 million sports and aquatics complex on Hwy. 321.

 Expansion of the Veterans Park Community Center to include a space for events and a safe room.

 A safe and lighted sidewalk with a pedestrian bridge to Magness Creek Elementary School from the neighborhood to its north.

 Diamond Creek drainage improvements.

 Several street overlays.

Numerous other projects will be ongoing throughout 2015 but are expected to be finished in 2016 or later.

Chamberlain said she wants to see Austin’s plans to build a new city hall get underway. The mayor said she would like to see some streets — many in the Saddlecreek neighborhood — fixed in 2015.

Williams said his New Year’s resolution is to not make any resolutions. But the senator’s hopes for 2015 include a “good positive session for the legislature” and that “we focus more on the middle income families and give them as much help as we can because they’re the ones struggling the most.”