Citizens of Gravette,
When I came into office on January 1, 2015 I had a very simple mission: to have a safe, sustainable, service-oriented city. Our great staff developed key criteria and set goals that supported this mission. Together we’ve accomplished much over the last three years and, in particular, achieved many admiral milestones in 2017.
The city has experienced growth in many forms. Applications for new residential building permits were up 75% compared to 2016. Interest in building new homes and renovating existing ones continues to rise. New businesses opened in Gravette, including a donut shop that has quickly become a popular morning destination. Two lanes of Arkansas Highway 549, also known as the “Bella Vista Bypass”, opened in May 2017, reducing commute time and paving the way for increased growth in Northwest Benton County.
The City of Gravette is strong financially. Since January 1, 2015, with the help of our City Council and department heads, our city’s general reserve account has grown from $129,000 to over $600,000, the water reserve has grown from $151,000 to over $500,000, and the street reserve account has grown from $37,000 to just under $85,000. Solid and well-funded reserve accounts are crucial to the livelihood and independence of a city, especially during economic downturns.
In 2016, voters approved the continuation of a ¾ cent sales tax that funded $1.6 million for street improvements, $1.65 million in sidewalk installation, $2.25 million for parks upgrades and construction, and $750,000 in sewer upgrades. Many of the 2017 changes to our parks and streets were funded by bond funds and more projects are anticipated to begin in 2018. In addition, the city secured more than $1,000,000 in grant funds and private donations during the past three years. This includes a $75,000 grant to renovate the old Home-Ec building which will serve as our Gravette Community Building, a $110,000 grant for improvements to Pop Allum Park, a $500,000 grant for a pedestrian trail and sidewalk, a $75,000 fire truck grant and many smaller grants awarded to the fire, library and police departments.
As promised, Gordon Hollow Road South and Dickson road were paved as was an alley on Main Street Northeast. Several old sidewalks were improved and new sidewalks were installed, including along Highway 59, from the senior housing to the hospital, and at Old Town Park. We’re in the final stages of planning for a 1.4-mile pedestrian/bike path loop that will extend from Second SE to El Paso to Sixth SE and back to Main Street. This path will also serve as a safe route to school for many children residing in the southwestern section of the west side of Gravette. Work is anticipated to begin in 2018.
One of the biggest and most noticeable improvements that occurred in Gravette in 2017 was the Main Street Rejuvenation Project which was completed on schedule and under budget. A two-block historical section of Main Street was improved with the complete removal and replacement of the street and sidewalks, installation of new street lights, a storm water drainage system, new water lines, and landscaping, along with improved utility lines. We anticipate that these investments will attract small businesses to downtown Gravette, providing more shopping options for our citizens.
Our park system provides safe, accessible, and engaging environments for families to enjoy. Gravette’s parks received many upgrades in 2017 and more are planned for 2018:
Kindley Park’s tennis and basketball courts were resurfaced and the iconic airplane on loan from the United States Air Force was restored.
Old Town Park saw the addition of a dog park as well as a new sidewalk around the playground that also serves as a walking track.
The Hiwasse Community Center is currently being remodeled. A fire station themed playground was created and new restrooms and a large pavilion were constructed. We anticipate paving a road from Highway 72 to Fire House Lane in 2018.
We’re on track to begin construction of new soccer fields and ball fields at Pop Allum Park along with the addition of a small playground.
Work at the Gravette City Pool began in the fall of 2017. A new slide and shade structures have been installed. Construction of a new state-of-the art splash park next to the swimming pool has commenced. The pool house and restrooms will be renovated this spring. All work will be completed in time for the 2018 swim season.
Every building within our park system was freshened with a new coat of paint.
The sewer and water department completed significant infrastructure upgrades necessitated by the aging of water and sewer lines. A new water main was installed on Main Street that replaced the original cast iron pipe. New sewer lines were installed on El Paso and in the alley on Birmingham St. Upgraded sewer lines preserve the health, safety, and sanitation of the city.
Gravette was again recognized by SafeWise as one of the safest cities in Arkansas, moving up from its #13 ranking in 2016 to #8 in 2017. Our police department reorganized its force with the addition of Sergeant Chris Kelly as well as a new full-time detective and full-time patrol officer. Corporal Bryan Smith was promoted to Corporal over C & D shifts. With the new hires, the Gravette Police Department provides 129 years of combined service. The department now has three full-time training officers and started a field training officer program for new hires. There are two certified field training officers in the department. The department provided gun safety training at Gravette Lower Elementary and conducted active shooter training with a local bank. Corporal Smith and K-9 IKKS have been successful in pursuing the eradication of drugs from our city. The department partnered with Gravette Public Schools to provide Thanksgiving meals for families of students and took some students Christmas shopping through the Shop With A Cop program.
Fire Chief Lonnie Mullen joined the Gravette Fire Department this fall. He comes to us with a strong background in fire department development. Five members of the fire department are participating in Firefighter 1 and 2 training and will be certified firefighters upon completion of the program. A $75,000 grant allowed the department to purchase a new ladder truck. Care and Share donated $45,000 to purchase two LifePak monitor/defibrillators and a Lifeline arm automated compression device, thus better equipping the department to respond to medical emergencies such as cardiac arrests.
The Gravette Public Library continues to evolve into a community hub which offers not only print and electronic books but also activities and programs for all ages. A “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program was added to encourage early childhood literacy. The library saw record enrollment in the 2017 children’s summer reading club and added summer reading clubs for teens and adults. Saturday Scientists was added to promote hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math. Teen Tech Week and Teen Tuesday summer activities were provided for teens. Personal finance workshops were offered for adults through a partnership with a local bank. Books were loaned to children at the Gravette Upper Elementary School through the pop-up library program while the school’s library was under construction.
The “State of the City” letter is issued annually and provides a look back at the previous year and a view to the coming year. When I came into office, I felt that it was important to have a means of communication throughout the year. This resulted in the creation of the City’s Facebook page which allows information to be shared quickly. Whether it be a road closure or a lost dog, our nearly 2,800 Facebook followers can find current information with the click of a button. Our website, GravetteAR.com, got overhauled and for the first time, citizens could access ordinances, resolutions, council agendas, and current budgets online and at their leisure.
I cannot say enough about our city staff. Their dedication to the goals that support this simple mission I envisioned in 2015 have resulted in the accomplishments outlined above. I look forward to continuing our efforts to have a safe, sustainable, and service oriented city.
Kurt Maddox, Mayor