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McKee Delivers ‘State of the City’ Address

BY LEANN DILBECK –

Mena Mayor George McKee delivered his ‘State of the City’ address during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“Council members, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, citizens of the City of Mena, I am pleased to present to you the “State of the City” report for the year of 2013.

“The City Council approved an operating budget of $3,438,000.00 for 2013.  Again, a very conservative approach was taken with our budget predictions for the year in order to continue our current level of City services and to ensure revenues were available for any unforeseen expenditures or disasters.

“However, we feel our economy remains strong  — we continue to have new businesses open such as: American Artisans Café; Chameleon Arts; Taste of Home; Buschman Legal Services; Mena Flea Market; Not Just Chicken; What-Knots, Antiques, Collectables, & More; Beatnik’s Boutique; Cross-eyed Cricket; PineMoore Shavings; A-Dian Systems Glass & Door, and the new RMCC School of Cosmetology.

“Revenues from City and County Sales Taxes were up in 2013.  City sales tax was up 1.23% over 2012 and the County sales tax revenue was up 1.81% over 2012.  I feel very encouraged by these numbers.  Most cities can’t say this.

“The 2013 twelve-month financial statement, which reflects revenues and expenditures for all City departments, is incorporated as a part of this report and details the financial AState of the City@.

“A new roof was installed on City Hall last year and the Richland Group from Fort Smith was contracted to create a new government website for the City – it will be finished in the near future.

“Construction seemed to be down in 2013.  There were 23 building permits issued for residential construction (with only 8 of those being for new construction) and 12 commercial permits issued (2 of which were for new construction) for a total of 35 building permits.  The total construction cost was $1,450,000.00.  Other permits issued included 54 for plumbing, 41 electrical, and 19 mechanical permits.”

The remainder of  McKee’s address included the following:

The Enforcement Department again in 2013 had a very effective year:

  • 18 warnings and 6 citations were written for violations of the City Beautification Ordinance.
  • 5 dilapidated houses were torn down and 9 more are being worked on
  • a total of 91 contacts were made relative to lot cleanliness
  • with assistance from community service workers, 5 alleyways were cleaned and many other easements
  • in addition, many non-running and unlicensed vehicles were successfully removed from properties

ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION COMMISSION

The Mena Advertising and Promotion Commission is established to oversee the expenditure of funds collected from the Mena A & P tax.  In 2013 this revenue was split 50% to be used for the advertising and promotion of our community and to sponsor festivals and events in our area to enhance tourist visitations.  The other 50% is to be used to assist in the development of Tapley Park.

Our A & P tax collections were up about 6.4% in 2013 which is another positive sign of a strong economy.

Last year we hosted a very successful Lum & Abner Festival, the 3rd annual July 4th Fireworks celebration, and the Rod Run car show and dance.  Unfortunately, the Christmas Festival had to be cancelled due to bad weather.  In addition, several thousand dollars were awarded to various groups to assist in the promotion of their events.

Tapley Park

With support from the Mena A & P Commission, Tapley Park saw many major improvements during 2013.

  • a grant in the amount of $85,000 was received from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Outdoor Grants Program for use at Tapley Park
  • hot-mix overlay was applied to the roadway at the Park from the entrance to the soccer fields and to the baseball fields
  • area Boy Scouts assisted with clearing and upgrades to the walking trail
  • new equipment purchased included:
    • new soccer nets
    • a zero-turn lawn mower
    • padded back-stops
    • L-Screens
    • bat racks
    • a portable pitcher’s mound
    • and security fencing was installed connecting all 5 baseball/softball fields

During the second season of the Mena City League at Tapley Park, there were 16 baseball teams and 18 softball teams registered.  The Park also hosted 3 softball tournaments.

There were 12 teams playing during the spring soccer season as well.

In June, Parks and Recreation Director Trad Williams resigned and Bobby Copelin was appointed as interim director.

AIRPORT

2013 highlights for Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport included:

  • Will Robbins assumed the position of Airport Manager in January of 2013
  • Taxiway C3 was completely rebuilt
  • the fire suppression system on the west side of the airport was finished
  • some major upgrades and improvements, such as a new water storage tank and new wiring, were made to the City-owned hangar on Lot 7 which now enables that hanger to meet all new standards as a paint hanger
  • An assessment of the pavement/concrete areas on all runways, taxiways, and ramps on the airport property was completed.  We can now make a plan for repairs and replacement.
  • steps have been taken to start the preliminary requests for funding to rebuild taxiway Brovo
  • The number of aircraft coming into Mena for work has increased and businesses are starting to hire again.  We know of approximately 30 new jobs that have been created and feel there will be more to come as the industry expands.  Also, more military planes are now beginning to arrive at the airport for repairs. The Outlook for 2014 is cautious but optimistic.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Numbers were way down for the Mena Fire Department last year (which is always a good thing)!  They responded to 94 fire related calls and only 13 first responder and rescue calls.  However, as business increased at the Airport, the need for stand-by assistance, as required for military planes, grew to 31 calls in 2013.  A total of 138 runs were logged by the Department for the year.

  • Thirty-five smoke alarms were installed during the year from the “Smoke Detector Awareness” campaign started in 2012.
  • 20 business inspections were completed during the year, and
  • the City received a grant of $1,000 from Western Arkansas Planning & Development District to purchase repelling equipment of ropes and harnesses

Fire Department personnel are always at the top of their game when it comes to training.  Last year Mena Firemen received:

  • 1540 hours of certified training from the Arkansas Fire Academy, the National Fire Academy, and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, and
  • 704 hours of in-house training
  • for a total of 2244 hours of training
  • additionally, 5 new firemen were certified under the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting program

As I do every year, I want to remind the community that the tornado sirens are tested every Wednesday at noon.

MENA REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM

 2013 Accomplishments

  • Financial and Operational Indicators “Unaudited”
  • 2013 was a challenging year for hospitals but MRHS still managed to remain stable in all of its key financial and operational indicators.
  • Emergency Department Visits                  10,271
  • Full-Time Equivalent Employees         254
  • Salaries, Wages & Benefits Paid         $15.6 Million
  • Net Revenue                                             $26.5 Million
  • Net Income over Expenses                           $66,113
  • Days Cash on Hand                                    81 days
  • Debt Service Ratio                                    3.25
  • Physician Recruitment
  • MRHS added another full-time Hospitalist Dr. Paul Buschman.
  • MRHS also welcomed Family Practice providers Dr. Sherilyn Webb and husband Eric Webb, Physician Assistant.
  • Hospital Infrastructure Improvements
  • Renovation projects were completed on the Intensive Care Unit and Business Office.
  • The majority of the roof was resurfaced.
  • A new $250K Chiller cooling system was installed.
  • Physician office space was secured with the addition of a new 10,800sq/ft Medical Office Building to be completed the summer of 2014 that will house 8-10 additional doctors for our community.
  • Achievements
  • MRHS continues to serve as a model facility in its class with Quality scores above the 90th percentile and high Patient Satisfaction scores.
  • Achieved Meaningful Use with Hospital electronic health records and implemented an Electronic Health Record system in all Physician owned clinics.
  • MRHS provided over $21,000 to 8 MRHS employees to further their education.

PARKS DEPARTMENT

The mowing season lasted longer than usual in 2013 due to the exceptionally wet summer; this kept the Department busy trying to stay ahead of the ever growing grass.

Long-time employee Arthur Shurley retired from the Department after 20 years of service.  And, Dustin Powell was hired to fill that position.

Other updates in the Parks included:

  • wiring at the Janssen Park Gazebo was completely replaced
  • many of the Christmas figurines were restrung with new LED lighting
  • and a new razorback figure was added to the display
  • the large ball field in McMillan Park received a makeover due to the efforts of some local volunteers

The Lum and Abner Festival and the Relay for Life events held in Janssen Park were once again very successful.  However, the Christmas Festival had to be cancelled because of the dangerous effects from the December ice storm.

Janssen Park saw a lot of activity during the year with 60 reservations scheduled for the Pavilion and 10 events booked at the Gazebo.  McMillan Park Pavilion had 55 reservations for the year.

POLICE DEPARTMENT

Officers of the Mena Police Department responded to over 1300 calls in 2013 with approximately 353 arrests made and a total of 303 accidents worked.

  • Officer Joe Quinn was assigned to Mena Public Schools as a school resource officer in 2013, and
  • Daniel Sanchez was hired in the patrol division to fill the position left vacant when Officer Quinn was reassigned
  • Mena Police officers and staff received over 500 hours of training in 2013 from the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute, Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, Arkansas Crime Information Center along with various other state and federal agencies
  • a new 2013 Dodge Charger was purchased for the street patrol
  • the City received a grant of $5,000 from the State of Arkansas Justice Department to purchase a patrol car video system as well as a handheld radar unit.
  • Officers from the Department presented several public awareness programs to local pre-schools, civic organizations, and churches
  • they also participated in the auxiliary/reserve classes and Kids College presented by Rich Mountain Community College

Continuing their commitment to community service, the Mena Police Department partnered with several local businesses to publish Drug Free, Safety, and Educational books and materials to be distributed to students, parents, and civic organizations.  With the support of several area sponsors the Mena Police Department published a 2013 MPD calendar.

 ANIMAL CONTROL

The City of Mena Animal Control Department answered 1021 calls for service in 2013, and there were 450 animals picked up.

  • 284 City pet licenses were issued last year
  • a rabies clinic was sponsored in November
  • conducted 2 school programs
  • 412 dogs & cats were adopted out
  • When the part-time position in this Department became vacant, Jeremy McMellon was hired to fill that opening
  • approximately 3,144 hours of community service workers were utilized
  • the December ice storm did major damage to many of the Pine trees at the shelter

STREETS AND INFASTRUCTURE

The Street Department met several challenges in 2013.   On May 30th, Mena received heavy rains and many areas of town were flooded.  This Department was kept very busy during the aftermath of the storm cleaning ditches and repairing damaged areas.

  • The Morrow Street Bridge received heavy water damage and immediate maintenance was completed
  • A box culvert on Petros Avenue was replaced because of significant damages
  • And, a box culvert on Pickering Avenue received repairs due to flooding issues
  • We do still have other flood damaged areas that need repairs – these will be finished in 2014.

Some other Improvement Projects that were accomplished during the year include:

  • Asphalt on South Mena Street from Highway 71 to Pine Street was milled up and a new layer of 2” hot-mix was placed on the street.  This project was completed with centerline striping and marking parking spaces.
  • Morgan Street from Ransom Road to Bus Barn Road was widened and also received new hot-mix overlay.
  • 180 loads of debris was picked-up during the Annual Spring Clean-Up
  • And, approximately 76 loads of brush and limbs were hauled in the Annual Fall Clean-Up.

And then to finish the year, a major Ice Storm hit Mena on December 5th and 6th.   Personnel from all City Departments assisted during the critical hours after the storm.  However, I committed the Street Department for the main focus of the clean-up.

  • Crews began clearing road ways and picking up limbs and trees that had fallen on to City streets and right-of-ways
  • On December 19th, the Street Department began a massive City-wide pick-up of all storm related debris that was placed at the curb-side
  • This process continued well into 2014

WATER AND SEWER

During 2013, Mena Water Utilities installed 26 new water services, 5 new sewer services, replaced over 1100 feet of sewer line, repaired or replaced over 50 manholes, repaired over 150 water line leaks and stayed very busy with various other repairs.

The wastewater treatment plant had a new curtain installed around the intake which helped them accomplish no lab violations during the year.

Two operators at the Irons Fork Water Treatment facility received their Grade 4 water treatment licenses during the year.

Their new website is www.menawaterutilities.com

I am optimistic 2014 will be a turning point in our economy and a prosperous year for the City.  We all must continue to work together for economic development, retail development, tourism development, industrial recruitment, and downtown revitalization.  I believe our City is successful because we have a “cooperative spirit” from all citizens who have a common goal to keep our community strong and progressive.

I am always mindful that it is the people of Mena that we work for and I want to give my promise that I take the responsibility of your tax dollars very seriously.  I pledge to continue to maintain a careful outlook when managing the City’s budget.  I work for and answer to the people because the City belongs to the people.

The Mayor’s office is open to everyone and I welcome your input.

In closing, I want to express my appreciation to all City employees.  2013 was a year of unusual circumstances having experienced two natural disasters in our City.  However, our employees stepped up and did an excellent job.  I am very proud of what was accomplished during the year with everyone working together — this is what makes Mena a wonderful place to live.

I also want to thank the elected officials, the City Council, and all volunteer boards and commissions for your efforts in making Mena a GREAT place to live!

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