Citizens of Gravette,
First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve another term as your Mayor. I am honored that you put your trust in me to guide the city for another four years. My mission remains the same as when I first came into office in 2015, to combine quality of life improvements and infrastructure investments to ensure that Gravette truly remains the “Heart of Hometown America”. I look forward to continuing this momentum during my second term by continuing to set goals and policy that place an emphasis on having a safe, sustainable, service-oriented city.
Financially, we are now on track for another banner year and the City again ended the year with the highest general reserve bank account we have seen. A tremendous amount of thanks is owed to the City’s department heads and City Council for making financially responsible decisions. $142,000.00 was added to the General Fund cash balances, which equals an increase in funds of approximately 13%. The balance in the Water Reserve account has grown 21% this year. Revenue for the General Fund exceeded expectations by almost 9%. At the end of 2018, the City Council voted to approve paying off $168,000.00 in loans, leading the City to be entirely free of non-bonded debt. Since the beginning of my first term as Mayor, the City has been awarded more than $2 million in grants and donations, which helps us simultaneously accomplish goals while maximizing tax payer money.
PROJECTS – BOND AND GRANT
Many of the projects you’ve heard me mention over the past few years were completed in 2018, including renovation of the Hiwasse Community Center and addition of a playground on the adjacent property; a parking lot, sidewalk, soccer fields, and remodeled bathroom and concession area at Pop Allum Park; and extensive remodel of the Gravette Civic Center. One of the most popular projects in 2018 was the installation of the splash park, refreshed pool deck, and remodeled pool house. More than 5,000 guests enjoyed the aquatic facility this summer. The City recently received a grant for $139,000.00 from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to construct basketball and tennis courts at Hiwasse Park and a toddler area at Old Town Park and I anticipate construction will begin sometime in 2019.
Crews have completed much of the work on the 1.4-mile walking trail that will serve not only as a recreational walking trail, but also a safe route to school. I hope this project will be completed by spring. The City was awarded an additional $400,000.00 grant to complete the second phase of the trail, which will extend from Highway 59 to Dallas Street to Pop Allum Park. Another section of the second phase will connect the high school parking lot to the existing sidewalk near Old Town Park. The City received a private donation of $200,000.00 for additional walking trail construction that I envision will continue the existing nature trail for an additional half-mile through some of the more scenic areas of town and eventually connect to the trail currently under construction.
Home growth continues to be strong in Gravette. Permits for new single-family homes in 2018 have a construction valuation of $5.92 million. More than 500 inspections were completed for new construction and remodel projects. The Planning Commission and City Council approved an updated planning jurisdiction map and work will start at the beginning of the year on updating the Master Land Use Plan and Master Street Plan. As interest in investing in Gravette increases, I want the Planning Commission and the City Council to have the tools they need to make responsible and practical decisions concerning our future growth and I think we’re on the right track. Construction of the additional two lanes of the existing Highway 549 is well under way and should be completed in the next year. The State of Arkansas was awarded a grant to complete the connection of Highway 549 (future I-49) to Missouri. This work is expected to be completed by 2022.
One of the biggest accomplishments for 2018 was the completion of the 2015-2016 legislative audit of the City’s finances. All past audits were only partial audits that pull randomized information to spot check data. Once we became a City of the First Class an audit was legally required, as it is of all Cities of the First Class. The primary concern in any audit is whether there is fraud or missing money. I am very happy to say that the City had absolutely no hint of any fraud or missing money. The Mayor and Police Chief were found to be in substantial compliance with Arkansas fiscal and financial laws, the highest of compliance designations. The City, unlike a business, has certain stricter standards that must be followed in fund accounting. Some of these standards are laws from the State specifically geared toward government agencies, and some are laws created by the City Council. There were some items for improvement, such as fixing the asset list (completed and new procedures implemented), closing an old bank account (completed), and correcting misstatements in which were items posted to the wrong line item (completed and new procedures implemented). The City has been in existence for 125 years and changing long held Ordinances and practices takes time. We are working through these items one-by-one to improve the City. Will the City ever have a perfect audit? Of all audits we’ve read through, there doesn’t appear to be a perfect one yet, but that is certainly our goal!
Once again, the City of Gravette was recognized by SafeWise as one of the top ten safest cities in Arkansas. Officers at the Gravette Police Department received more than 1,000 hours of training, including Glock armor, marijuana testing, instructor development, Critical Incident Training (CIT), criminal and advanced interviewing, Desert Snow (drug interdiction training), and K9 re-certification. In addition, the School Resource Officers attended SRO training, the Safe Schools conference, and active shooter training. Many of the department’s firearms were updated and the School Resource Officers received new rifles. The department continued its involvement with the community and conducted active shooter training with the Gravette School District and Ozarks Community Hospital.
The Gravette Fire Department focused heavily on training in 2018 and thanks to a strategic partnership with the Arkansas Fire Academy, the department was able to offer several in-house trainings like Fire Officer I and II classes. In 2018, career and volunteer personnel completed more than 1,900 training hours. The Department was awarded a $43,347.00 grant to obtain several self-contained breathing apparatuses, which is essential personal protective equipment for firefighters to be able to make entry into hazardous environments. Ambulance billing revenue expectations were exceeded, thanks in part to training provided on report writing and quality assurance. The out-the-door time from moment of call to moment of departure was at a four-year low. Response from the fire department saved over $1.5 million in property value.
WATER AND SEWER
The water and sewer department stayed busy this year with upgrades and installations. Several water lines were replaced or upgraded. The old pumps installed at the three lift stations in the 1980s were removed and new pumps were installed, which will lead to higher efficiency. The department completed nearly 1,350 work orders and more than 700 One Call locates in 2018. To reduce stormwater from coming into the sewer collection system, fifty infiltrators (manhole covers) were installed on low-lying manholes in strategic locations throughout the City. These will ultimately improve the efficiency of the plant by reducing unnecessary treatment of stormwater. One of the more noticeable improvements is the new water billing system. The new system allows users to look at their bill online, view graphs, and make changes to their account, all from home.
As promised, many streets were paved, resurfaced, or chip and sealed. Several dirt and gravel roads in Hiwasse were chip and sealed and eight streets received chip and sealed approaches to make entering and exiting much safer. We successfully worked with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to improve a section of Highway 279 that was particularly susceptible to accidents by adding a high friction surface treatment to improve the skid resistance. At the end of 2018, we received notice of project funding award from the Arkansas State Aid City Street Program, which will provide $250,000.00 in funding to re-pave Detroit Street NE all the way to Eagle Drive, Main Street NE from Third Avenue to Eleventh Avenue, and Second Avenue SW from Atlanta to Irving.
The Gravette Public Library hosted many community events this year, including a seed swap, several book signings, Moon Over Main Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, nutrition and cooking classes, and an open house. Programming continued to expand with the addition of a MakerSpace program and Crazy 8s Math Club. Over the last three years, patron visits to the library have increased by 83% and circulation is up 62%. E-Books continue to be popular with circulation up 278%.
To keep up with all the exciting things happening in Gravette, make sure to check out our website, www.GravetteAR.com, and follow us on Facebook. On our website, you can find City news updates, Ordinances, City Council agendas, budgets, the City calendar, and more. As always, you can stop by City Hall, call, or email at any time with questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you.
I want to thank City staff for their dedication and hard work to make Gravette a truly great place to live and work. The City Council has been instrumental in supporting the goals of the City and providing guidance. I look forward to carrying on our efforts to have a safe, sustainable, and service-oriented City.
Kurt Maddox, Mayor
City of Gravette