Mena Mayor George McKee gave his annual State of the City Address at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. The address was given to a full house of attendees and covered a synopsis of 2015.
Below is his address in it’s entirety:
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 2015.
An operating budget of $4,549,526.00 was approved by the City Council for the year 2015. We approached the year with a conservative budget, being very aware of the many challenges facing cities and at the same time considering the need to maintain our current level of services to the citizens of Mena. Because of our careful management practices and prudent spending choices over the last several years, I am proud to say our financial outlook is stable. In 2015, we were able to give city employees a pay raise and with our established savings plan, we were able to pay cash for the purchase of a new fire truck in lieu of having to borrow the money.
City and County Sales Tax revenues continued to increase in 2015. City sales tax was up 1.71% over the previous year and the County sales tax revenue grew by 4.13%. I feel these numbers are very encouraging and indicate that our local economy remains strong.
The 2015 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 “State of the City”.
New businesses that opened in Mena during the year include:
That Pet Place; DME(Durable Medical Equipment & Supply); Joe’s Chicago Style Pizza; Mena Family Fun Park; Ouachita Society of Martial Arts; Farmers Insurance – Billy Sterner, Agent; Non-Stop Fitness Center; Light House Fitness Center for Women; Old Bank Antiques; Main Street Shoppe; Stache’s Cookery; Dollar Tree; Cordie House Vacation Rentals; Stanley Craig overnight rentals; and the Sassafras Inn.
– Building and Construction –
There were a total of 50 building permits issued for 2015 – with 17 of those being for commercial and 2 for new residential construction. Other permits issued included 50 for plumbing, 32 electrical, and 25 HVAC mechanical permits. We were saddened by the loss of Frank Meade in October last year. He served as the building inspector for the City of Mena for 13 years. Kevin Wolfenbarger was hired as the new building official in November, 2015 and is doing an excellent job.
– Enforcement Department –
An important component of economic development is the cleanliness of your community. The Enforcement Department does a great job of answering complaints about unsightly properties and enforcing the City’s “Beautification Ordinance”.
- 30 warnings or citations were written for violations of the City Beautification Ordinance.
- 3 dilapidated houses were torn down and 11 more are being worked on
- a total of 92 contacts were made with property owners relative to lot cleanliness and structure issues
- a utility trailer, pole saw, and weed-eater were purchased
- in addition, weeds and overgrown grass was removed from several major streets such as Sutherland, Janssen, Reeves, Church, Hickory, Reine, and DeQueen which helped to significantly enrich the appearance of our town
– Downtown Development –
A new roof was installed on the Mena Depot last year. The building was leaking in several places and the clay tile roof required significant repairs. The total cost of the project was $94,928.50. We received a $50,000.00 grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and a $10,000.00 grant from the Western Arkansas Planning & Development District General Improvement Fund. The remaining $34,928.50 was paid from the City’s Special County Sales Tax fund.
Several improvements were made to the exterior of City Hall last year. New awnings were installed, the building was re-painted, the pillars at the front of the building were restored, and some drainage issues in the basement were corrected.
Bids were received in November of 2015 for the Mena Downtown “Streetscape” Enhancement Project. A contract was awarded early this year and construction is scheduled to begin this week.
We appreciate the many organized activities in our downtown area throughout the year, such as the Ouachita Arts Celebration, the Main Street Festival sponsored by the Crossing Church, the Chamber of Commerce’s Daylight Trick or Treat, the Christmas Parade, the Rodeo and Fair Parades, and the Farmer’s Market, these events all promote our downtown area and invite visitors.
We are also confident that the re-opening of the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge will lead to increased tourism traffic for our downtown.
ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION COMMISSION
The Mena Advertising and Promotion Commission is established by state law to oversee the revenues and expenditures of the Mena A & P tax. This is a 1% tax collected on all prepared food sold in the city limits and a 3% tax collected on all lodging facilities. In 2015, 50% of the funds were used for the promotion of Mena in such ways as advertising, brochure development and distribution, festival and event planning, and sponsorship of grants to local non-profit organizations to help support their tourism-related activities. The other 50% was used to assist with the growth of Tapley Park.
We are pleased to report the A & P tax collections were again up about 1% in 2015 over the year before. The City is very grateful to all the restaurant and lodging businesses for collecting these taxes on behalf of the City of Mena. A portion of the revenue received from the A & P tax is what pays for all the festivals and events sponsored by the A & P Commission each year.
Last year the Commission organized a very successful Lum & Abner Festival, the 5rd annual July 4th Celebration, the downtown Rod Run car show and street dance, and a fantastic Christmas Festival with fireworks. Each of these events attracted many visitors to our community.
– Tapley Park –
In 2015, the Mena A & P Commission continued to support the development and maintenance of Tapley Park by dedicating 50% of their budget to the Park.
The Park continues to serve the area youth with multiple playgrounds, and baseball, softball, and soccer leagues each year
- Last year eight baseball and softball tournaments were held at the Park and a new adult co-ed slow pitch softball league was started
- In 2015 over 800 people participated in sports activities at Tapley Park
- Baseball – 273
- Softball – 226
- Soccer – 262
- Adult Co-ed – 60
- a new addition to the Park was a restroom/storage facility which was constructed near the soccer fields for a total cost of $133,500.00
- a grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism’s Outdoor Grants Program reimbursed us for $58,500.00 of the construction cost
- Other improvements included new purchases:
- a zero-turn lawn mower for $8,212.00
- and bright yellow fence guards for a cost of $4,250
- also a new website has been created for all sports events hosted at the Park tapleysports.com This site gives the public the ability to register online for any league or tournament play held at Tapley Park and is home to all information regarding the Park and its events.
Status report and highlights for Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport for the year 2015:
- airport operators reported that their businesses were doing well with steady growth
- the consistently low fuel prices in 2015 helped to boost airport traffic
- work continued on the Federal Aviation Administration’s required Airport Survey and Master Plan. Funds to complete this project were provided by a $260,000.00 grant from FAA. It is a 90/10 matching grant and the City will be reimbursed our 10% matching share by the State Aeronautical Commission
- new LED edge lights were installed on runway 17/35. This project was funded by an 80% grant from the State Airport Improvement Program in the amount of $246,891.00 and the matching 20% was paid out of local airport funds acquired from airport lease income
- progress continued on the planning/design phase for rebuilding taxiway Bravo. We should have approval from the FAA by spring of 2016 to start the design phase. This project is also paid for by 90% federal funds (FAA) and 10% from the State Aeronautical Commission. We hope to start actual construction in 2017.
- all hangers at the airport are currently rented
- and the airport has approximately 18 businesses with 250 employees
Last year the Mena Fire Department responded to 108 fire related calls and 18 first responder and rescue calls. Again in 2015, there was an increase in the number of military contracts awarded to airport businesses and the need for required stand-by assistance calls grew to 67. A total of 193 runs were logged by the Department for the year.
- A major achievement for the Fire Department in 2015 was the purchase of a new fire truck. We received the new truck in July and it cost $314,000.00, which we paid cash for out of the City’s share of the county one-cent sales tax revenue.
- 22 business inspections were completed last year, and
- the Mena Elks Club donated a grant of $600.00 which was used to purchase rope rescue equipment
Training is always very important for the men and women on the Fire Department — last year they received:
- 384 hours of training from the Arkansas Fire Academy, the National Fire Academy, and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, and
- 804 hours of in-house training
- for a total of 1188 hours of certified training
I want to remind the community that the tornado sirens are tested every Wednesday at noon.
MENA REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM
Total Inpatient Days – 7,737
Births – 306
Emergency Department Visits – 9,037
Total Clinic Visits – 21,337
Total Number of Employees (full, part and PRN) – 319
Salaries, Wages & Benefits Paid – $17.2 Million
Net Revenue – $26.6 Million
Days Cash on Hand – 107
Uncompensated Care Spending – $3.0 Million
- Bad Debt/Uncompensated Care reduced approximately
$800K from prior year
- MRHS provided $7,500 in tuition reimbursement for 3
employees to continue their education in the health field.
- MRHS received the AVATAR award for greatest increase in patient satisfaction scores among their hospitals.
- Continued to participate in Hospital Engagement Network for focus on quality improvement and improved clinical outcomes.
- MRHS added a Full Time General Surgeon, an Orthopedic Surgeon, and two Nurse Practitioners (in Family Medicine).
Hospital Infrastructure Improvements
- Moved the Walk-In Care Center to the Mena Medical
Associates Clinic, located at 1103 College Drive. This
allowed most providers to practice in one central location,
a more spacious waiting room and parking area, the
convenience of an in-house laboratory and immediate
assistance with partnering Walk-In patients with a primary
care provider, if needed.
- Total renovation of the Sleep Lab was completed
- Phase III of III-Reroofing the hospital facility was completed
- Reopened Mena Surgical Clinic to house the new full time general surgeon and the orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Thomas Sullivan remains at the clinic as a part time general surgeon.
Technology and Equipment
- Achieved Meaningful Use with hospital electronic health
- Dr. Forrest, Dr. Webb, Dr. Sullivan achieved Meaningful
Use with clinics’ hospital electronic health record.
- Upgraded the Central Monitoring System for Women’s
- Upgraded Dictation and Transcription System
In addition to their routine activities of mowing, weed-eating, and maintenance, this Department does a terrific job of preparing the City’s parks for the many large events scheduled there every year. The parks always look beautiful and in pristine condition for these public gatherings such as the Lum & Abner Festival, the Relay for Life event, the Christmas Festival, the Ouachita Fall Festival, Wheel A’Mena, and the Talimena 13.1 Run and Relay.
Other updates in the Parks included:
- new equipment purchased – zero-turn lawn mower for a cost of $8,212.00
- stabilization of the rock maintenance building in Janssen Park which cost $2,692.00
- Janssen Park ponds were drained and cleaned
- Christmas light display expense was $4,529.00
- a new employee, Macen Falls, was hired in August, 2015
Reservations for the year included:
- Janssen Park Pavilion 63
- Janssen Park Gazebo 4
- McMillan Park Pavilion 77
- A new event held in Janssen Park last year was live music every Thursday evening from May through August
- Various other church activities, community events, family reunions, and company picnics continue to be popular at the parks each year
- Revenues for McMillan Pool were $31,162.00 for last year which was up from 2014.
In 2015, officers of the Mena Police Department made 420 arrests, worked 305 accidents, and completed 1055 reports.
- Paul Arceneaux was hired from the reserve program to a full-time position on the Department created when Brandon Martin was appointed as Chief.
- Several officers in the Department were reassigned; Jessie Curry was assigned as the Mena Public Schools resource officer, and Norm Gray assumed a position in the Criminal Investigation Division.
- Mena Police full-time and reserve officers received 1063 hours of training in 2015 covering various topics and 25 different subjects — 500 hours for the full-time personnel and 563 for the reserve officers.
- a new 2015 Ford patrol car and four new computers were purchased for the Department
- the City received a $4,200 grant from the State of Arkansas Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program to purchase a dash mount digital car video system and a mobile radar unit.
- Officers within the Department hosted the second annual reserve officer training course with two different law enforcement agencies represented in the class.
- Three graduates from the class became members of Mena’s Reserve Unit. Officers of the Reserve Unit volunteered a total of 1,676 hours of service to the City in such areas as assisting with ball games, parades, scheduled shifts, and ride-alongs with full-time officers.
- Statistics for 2015:
- 15% decrease in crimes against person reports
- 34% decrease in burglaries, breaking or entering
- 27% increase in drug cases
- 40% decrease in DWI arrests
- 8% increase in accidents reported
- Last year the Department partnered with the National Child Safety Council and adopted “Safety Pup” as the police mascot. “Safety Pup” attends public functions and creates a friendly environment for police to engage one-on-one with the local community and children. Donations from area businesses to the national organization helped to purchase the needed supplies for the program, such as pamphlets, coloring books, and educational materials.
The Department has started using Facebook for different purposes such as distributing information and for investigations. We welcome the public to be involved in the community and “LIKE” the Mena Police Department facebook page.
– Animal Control –
The City of Mena Animal Control Department answered 1,123 calls for service in 2015, and there were 397 animals picked up.
- 157 City pet licenses were issued last year
- 356 dogs & cats were adopted out
- 36 animals were returned to their owners
- approximately 1,815 hours from community service workers were utilized in the Animal Control Department
- Juanita Howard was hired as a part-time assistant for the Department
STREETS AND INFASTRUCTURE
The Mena Street Department is charged with the care and maintenance of our city streets and drainage areas. Annually they do routine repairs as well as some major improvements.
Projects completed by the Street Department during 2015 included:
- five 42” culverts were installed on Race Track Road – this was a major drainage project which cost approximately $13,000.00
- a concrete box culvert with grate was installed at the corner of Cherry Street and Hornbeck Avenue
- some water damaged areas were repaired on South Mena Street and the asphalt road surface was replaced with concrete
- rocks and debris was cleared from beneath the Morrow Street bridge
- 179 loads of debris was picked up during the Annual Spring Clean-Up
- and, 42 loads of brush and limbs were hauled in the Annual Fall Clean-Up.
- new equipment purchased for the Department last year included:
- International 2-ton dump truck for a cost of $71,045.00
- Chevrolet 1-ton flat bed truck which cost $33,668.00, and
- a Mauldin Asphalt Roller at a cost of $16,500.00
Approximately $432,000.00 was spent on the hot-mix program last year. Some of the streets that received overlay included: Prairie Creek Road, Miller Avenue, Oak Grove Avenue, Blake Street, Lakeside Drive, Oaklawn Drive, and 8th, 9th, and 11th Streets.
City officials worked closely with the Arkansas State Highway Department in 2015 to create design plans and acquire right-of-way easements for the construction of a new road (North Morgan Street) which will be built from Highway 71 to Geyer Drive. This project should be advertised for bids sometime in 2016. The City has received a grant of $1,000,000.00 toward the funding of this project and will be partnering with Mena Public Schools for the matching share.
WATER AND SEWER
During 2015, Mena Water Utilities installed 3 new water hydrants and 15 new water services. Additionally, repairs were made to 27 sections of water main and 114 water services were repaired. Also, 22 sections of sewer lines were repaired or replaced and the Department stayed very busy with various other repairs.
The wastewater treatment plant had only one lab violation during the year.
And, there were no significant findings during the water plant and distribution system review by the Arkansas Department of Health.
I believe 2015 was a very positive year for the City of Mena. Many accomplishments were made during the year toward the betterment of our city. We saw growth in retail businesses, industrial development, and the tourism industry. However, it is important that we all continue to work together to strengthen the area’s economic base through retail development and tourism development; to maintain our industrial recruitment efforts; and carry on our downtown revitalization. We have a strong and progressive community and I am optimistic that because of the “cooperative spirit” demonstrated from our citizens, Mena will continue to flourish well into the future.
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 tax dollars. 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. I am very proud of all the achievements realized in 2015 because of the dedication and hard work from every department working together. Teamwork is what makes a city run smoothly.
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!