Friday, December 18, 2015

TOP STORY >> Council honors Swaim

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, left, congratulates former Mayor Tommy Swaim on Thursday after the city’s community center was renamed in Swaim’s honor. Swaim led Jacksonville for 22 years.

Leader staff writer

During the city council meeting Thursday, Jacksonville officials unveiled a plaque renaming the Jacksonville Community Center in honor of former Mayor Tommy Swaim.

The community center opened in 1995 funded with a penny sales tax. Swaim was mayor for 22 years.

“One of the highlights of many in this community is the facility next door to (city hall), (which wouldn’t be there) had it not been for Tommy Swaim coming up with a way to financially build it. It was very smart, and we’ve had the showpiece of central Arkansas for years,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said.

“I can’t think of any better way this city can honor and remember such a great leader as Tommy Swaim,” he said.

Swaim said, “This is a great honor. I really appreciate it.”

He also said Jacksonville is a great city with the greatest employees.

“I have watched this city change over the years. I’m proud to be a small part of that change, and I hope it continues to move forward.

“With our new school district in the next few years, we will see some major changes in our community. I think it will be the greatest thing since the (Little Rock Air Force) Base came,” Swaim said.

The $4 million community center was opened on April 10, 1995. Plans for the community center started rolling in 1992with the direction of parks director Annabelle Davis and the parks commission led by Pat Bond.

A special election was held where Jacksonville voters passed a one-cent sales tax while the millage rate on personal property taxes was reduced from 5 mills to 2 mills.

The city did not have to borrow money or sell bonds. It was able to use the new incoming sales tax money to pay it off.

The city council Thursday also approved its 2016 budget of $21.04 million.

The city had to take $249,500 out of its reserves. Last year, $400,000 was taken out of reserves.

The 2016 budget is also $500,000 more than the current budget.

City finance director Cheryl Erkel explained adjustments made to the budget since the council meeting on Dec. 10. The revenues from the shooting range targets were increased to $54,000, shooting range fees were increased to $13,000 and pro shop sales were increased to $10,000.

Erkel said she also found that corrections needed to be made to the 911 budget for supplies, the information technology budget for Clearpoint managing service and the parks department for athletic supplies.

She reduced the privilege tax revenue by $16,000, too. Erkel adjusted the court fines revenues to show the offset of supporting the Pulaski County Jail. The court fine revenues were decreased to $120,000; revenues for jail costs/fines were increased to $75,000, and revenues from police warrants were increased by $500.

Jacksonville resident Phillip Carlisle addressed the city council, asking that it enforce city codes, particularly mowing grass.

“I have asked that one of the lots in my neighborhood be mowed. I’ve had no luck getting any response. I’ve been trying all summer. I tried with (City Engineer) Jay Whisker at (a) Rotary (club meeting). I waited a few weeks and called the code enforcement officer. From there, I had to go to the police chief and still nothing was done. (Police Chief Kenny Boyd) told me he was the responsible party here, and he would make a decision and get back with me,” Carlisle said.

He continued, “After that, I called Jim (Durham, director of administration) and then I called back and talked with the mayor and, after some conversation, was told the city would enforce the codes. Still nothing happens after two months. I called the mayor back, and he said I would be starting a real firestorm.”

Carlisle said, in his neighborhood, the lot in question is less than five acres. Only a third of the property is not cut. It is about knee high. Carlisle is concerned because the tall grass is next to his grandchildren’s house. He said he is trying to protect them from mice, snakes and coyotes while they use their playground next to the tall grass.

The council approved the reappointment of Jim Peacock Jr. to the Planning Commission. Peacock’s term will expire in January 2019.