During the regular monthly meeting of the Greenwood City Council, held on Monday evening, March 6, Mayor Doug Kinslow delivered the 2023 State of the City address:
Greenwood State of the City
Thank you everyone for being here.
I would like to thank our city council members: AC Brown, Ralph Meeker, Rod Powell, Daniel McDaniel, Tim Terry, and newly elected Roger Rainwater; City Clerk/Treasurer Sharla Derry, and City Attorney newly elected Travis Plummer.
And our Commission Chairs: Water/Wastewater Chair Theresa Burchett, Parks Chair Joel Goldstein, and A&P Chair Mike McAlister.
Our Planning Chair Tommy Basham recently passed. He was a devoted member of our community who selflessly volunteered his time. I could always rely on Tommy for honest advice and a good one liner. I’ll always miss seeing his jeep on Center Street. Greenwood has lost another icon.
I also want to recognize our Department Heads: Fire Chief Stewart Bryan, Police Chief Will Dawson, Street Department Jeff Turner, Water Tim Posey, Wastewater Dalton Moore, Water treatment Greg Cross, Finance Tom Marsh, Parks Casey Craig, Planning Department Sonny Bell, and our magnificent Human Resources and Executive Assistant Danielle Smith.
I want to take a moment to do more than just thank Pam, my beautiful, courageous wife, and my family. Election years are never easy on the candidates.
We sometimes forget the toll it takes on their families. Pam and all my family have stood strong beside through it all. This year seemed to be a bit harder than most. But in the end the people spoke.
I would like to report to you tonight, that the state of our city is strong.
The current 2023 approved city budget is $18 million dollars. Committed Capital spending during 2023 is budgeted to be $7.7 million consisting of $5.68 million of new capital spending. 2022 Combined City and County Sales Tax Revenue collections exceeded 2021 collections by 11.74%.
Projected revenue from all city revenue sources is predicted to increase in 2023 by 8.73%. The city of Greenwood is fiscally strong.
It’s hard to believe that since June of 2014 I have been mayor of the city I grew up in, my hometown. Looking back on the past eight and a half years kind of feels like a dream.
When I first came into office, parks were one of my top priorities. I have always thought it was important to encourage people to experience the outdoors. I witnessed during my days at the Boys and Girls club how parks, playgrounds, and trails keep families together and grow friendships. Watching my grandson grow-up, I have seen the power of nature. Kids actually putting their iPads and phones down and playing.
Parks create places where children can exercise both their bodies and minds, but most importantly parks are special spaces where imaginations can grow and for my grandson a new friend at every turn.
One project, the Bell Park Promenade, began in 2010 when I was the parks director and was finally completed last year. It offers a walking area where people can enjoy the incredible views from the top of Bell Park. The promenade connects the pavilions and incorporates both Boy & Girl Scout projects such as a set of musical sculptures and a variety of seating areas. It took us years, but we were able to bring these main components of Bell Park’s Master Plan to life.
I have learned that great plans sometimes seem stagnant but evolve over time to meet the needs of our citizens. For years, we have talked about having a splash pad and those idea can finally become a reality because the city invested in extending sewer up Main Street, providing services to both citizens and our expansion of Bell Park.
Another project that began during my years as Parks Director is the Veterans Memorial. Designed by the late Michael Lejong, it is one of the best tributes in our area honoring those who have and continue to serve. The addition of the eagle sculpture, Freedom, created by local artists makes a permanent statement depicting the underlying meaning behind Memorial Park, which honors the 13 victims of the 1968 tornado.
The park is highlighted by our bi-centennial 1976 clock tower, which former parks director Richard McKinney had repaired after it had stopped working for several years.
Many people talk about the importance of infrastructure, but our town is becoming a testament to the power of planning for growth. The new pump station out by HWY 10 made the East Village development possible.
Our planning, water, and wastewater commissions worked with the builders to create an infrastructure plan that will service more than 250 new homes. We first learned this lesson on the west end of town when we extended our water and sewer lines to secure a location for Tractor Supply.
Those investments led to more businesses, AT&T, Dollar Tree, and Anytime Fitness moving into the area.
Our primary job at the city is customer service and part of that mission is to be builder friendly. We should and must encourage people who are willing to take risks and invest in our city. That is why we further extended our water services under Center Street to support the future Curve development project.
Other large investments on Greenwood’s east corridor, include the tri-plexes that fill a crucial gap in rentals that economic development studies revealed our city needed.
Family-owned Alpha Packaging is completing a 50,000 square foot expansion. They are also implementing equipment upgrades and automation improvements installing the fastest box making machine in Arkansas and surrounding states that will produce 500 boxes a minute.
Since having been in office I have watched our fire department’s Insurance Services Office rating go from Class “4” to Class “3” to a Class “2” by the ISO Public Protection Classification Program placing Greenwood in the top 5% of all communities evaluated in the United States.
This in not only important in terms of safety but combined it saves our citizens and businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars overall each year.
We were able to achieve these ratings with investments in infrastructure, training, and equipment. For example, we are purchasing a new Sutphen Heavy Duty Rescue Engine in order to replace Engine #1, a 1997 model fire engine that is out of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliance.
The forward-thinking management of our fire department has led us to be nationally recognized as an International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) “Ready Set Go” community and for the 12th straight year a nationally recognized Firewise Community.
I would like to congratulate the 2022 City of Greenwood Fire Department Firefighter of the Year, David Ozuna, a Coast Guard Veteran, who in only his second year on the department has earned the honor and respect of his fellow Firefighters.
In 2015, we opened a new police station. Our police department has come a long way from when they were operating out of a three-bedroom house. Over the last several years, Greenwood has been ranked either the #1 or #2 safest city in the state.
I believe sometimes we take it for granted how great of a job our police department does.
They have accomplished these incredible rankings through great leadership, community connections, and working closely with our school district.
Greenwood School District
During my time in office, I have witnessed our school district’s excellence in education in action, as our schools are regularly classified among the top five and ten schools in the state. We are currently ranked the #2 Best Public School in the State of Arkansas, and #5 Best Middle School with East Pointe and Westwood Elementary receiving the Top 5% Academic Achievement Awards from the Arkansas Department of Education.
The Freshman Center was completed in 2016, giving our students a head start in college prep and technical training.
Recently, I was asked to judge an academic contest where the kids presented historical figures from Abraham Lincoln to Elvis Presley. Our job was to interview the students about their projects, and I was blown away by how knowledgeable they were.
Our teachers do amazing work and that is why Greenwood Schools are the #1 Best Place to Teach in the State.
We have also been spoiled by the excellence of our student athletes as individuals and teams have won numerous championships over the years. Thanks to the dedication of our coaches and staff we are the #1 Best Place for Athletic Success in Arkansas and #1 High School for Athletes in the state.
A new designation we have received is that of being a Purple Star School District. We are ranked 5th in military student enrollment in the state, with 264 military students in our district.
As our schools partner with Fort Smith’s Ebbing Air National Guard base, these connections will be extremely important when the F-35/F-16 fighter training program moves to this base.
The Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation has approved the Greenwood School District’s proposed project to construct a new elementary school for the 2023-2025 State funding cycle.
The school district’s facilities are currently operating within a comfortable capacity, but the approval of this project will ensure that the district is well positioned for enrollment growth for years to come.
The last eight years have been incredible because of the dedication of all the people who love our city from teachers to builders from our men and women serving as police officers and firefighters, to our senior citizens who continue to inspire me.
One of the things that I did not know would be part of the job, but I have really learned to love is having the pleasure of being involved with several public, private, and state organizations. I serve on the boards of the Fort Smith Regional Alliance, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Western Arkansas Planning & Development District, Engage Arkansas, Area Agency on Aging, Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Council, Governor’s Commission on National Service and Volunteerism and governor appointed Compliance Audit Panel.
Recently I was elected to be the Vice President of Arkansas Municipal League’s 3rd District, which is truly an honor.
I have met many wonderful people who serve their communities and I continue to learn a lot about our state.
These appointments help our team stay current with the newest laws, develop relationships with other mayors and lawmakers, and lets us know about grants and funding available to our city.
Thanks to the hard work of our department heads, we have received millions in grants.
Over the last eight and half years I have learned several lessons along the way that I believe will shape my next four years in office.
The first lesson that I learned the hard way is, Nothing is ever simple.
I came into office over 8 years ago, ready to conquer the world.You think you know what is needed and you want to get along with everyone. I discovered that anything can quickly become political, and you will never make everyone happy.
I found out there is a difference between getting along to get along, and actually getting things done, because decisions have to be made. That is why the people of Greenwood elected us –To make decisions.
Being mayor reminds me of my days as a referee. On a good day, only half the people are happy with the calls you make, and many days both sides are upset with a decision you made.
I have learned to trust our city’s planning process and our team. It can take up to a year or more before a project comes to city council for a vote. During that time our departments and commissions work together to put a successful plan together.
For example, the new senior center took almost two years of planning to happen. It became apparent a few years ago, even with the generosity of Farmer’s Bank, the old building needed major repairs.
After exploring several options, we determined it would be fiscally responsible to have our own facility.
Working with architects we discovered that a new center would cost around $5 million dollars and take several years to raise the funds to build it. We found another solution with a pre-existing building that would not only save the city $4 million but the seniors could move in within a matter of months instead of years.
The second distribution of American Rescue Plan funds were committed to the purchase of the building.
However, even the most popular ideas that seem to be best, remind me that being a mayor is like being a referee. At the end the day a decision had to be made, and we voted to take care of our city’s elders.
Furthermore, I am happy to report that with the help of Western Arkansas Planning & Development District (WAPDD) we will receive a $500K grant to upgrade the building to meet the needs of our seniors. WAPDD has been a reliable partner throughout the years. A special thank you to Tracy McKenna and all the staff at WAPDD.
Another lesson I learned. Even though it sounds like a cliché, “If you build it, they will come,” it isn’t just a saying when it comes to infrastructure, it is a reality.
This being said, we need to coordinate with ARDOT on Phase 2 of the bypass, which widens HWY 10 from an existing two lane into five lanes. This transformation will increase economic opportunities for our South Greenwood corridor. The first step will be annexation followed by partnering with ARDOT to create a 5-year water and sewage plan for the corridor.
If we wait till after the project is completed, our cost will go up exponentially.
Phase 1a of “The Curve” located on Greenwood’s Northwest Corridor is underway. Braums has officially closed the deal and now owns the property that they will build on. Additionally, the County has voted to approve a $5 million state of the art library facility. MAHG architects have provided plans and we are currently waiting for the final negotiations to be completed.
This project will allow us to extend water north along HWY 71 so that we can control the economic entrance to our city.
On Greenwood’s Western Corridor, we extended water under HWY 71 for the future construction of Fire Station #3, which will service future economic development along Phase 2 of the bypass.
I would love for us to have a full-time Fire Department. I think we all agree this is where we are headed.
However, the reality is, we need to grow our tax base in order to make this happen. We need to be pro-growth and we should all work together to accomplish this goal.
Probably the most important lesson I have learned is, Nothing Happens Fast.
Close to seven years ago we started putting together a plan for a bypass. We took it to ARDOT to see if the project was feasible and how much it would cost. The initial estimate was $26 million with Greenwood’s portion being $5 million. We presented the plan to our citizens who overwhelmingly voted to pass a bond to pay for it.
The bypass project is in process with the overlay of former 10 Spur that is now Center Street, which the city of Greenwood currently owns. We will eventually take over the rest of 10 Spur up to HWY 96. I am thrilled to announce that the bidding for building Phase 1 of the Bypass will take place this November.
As mayor, patience is not simply a virtue, it is a necessity. Even the sidewalks that are currently under construction was a five-year project. I believe that providing a safe path for pedestrians was worth the fight to make it happen. Our goal is to improve walkability throughout the city.
Nothing excites me more than the conversations we are having about tying all our trails together across the city and regionally.
A major part of our trail system that is especially close to my heart is the Michael Lejong Lake Trail.
While his name is attached to several buildings around town and across the state, I think our city’s tribute to him honors his passion for the outdoors. We have started on the Cuthbert Bridge project that will be the trail head for the lake. I believe Michael would appreciate the incorporation of a 1931 Pony Truss bridge, which was made possible by a $250,000 donation and a grant.
We are also working toward making the old iron bridge walkable. It was damaged during the last flood, that also effected more than 50 homes. These are areas that have increasingly been affected and we continue to explore flood mitigation plans on the state and federal levels.
In order to address this issue, one option is a volunteer FEMA program that buys up homes located in flood plains. Our plan is to eventually turn these flood zones into green spaces or parks, and to relocate our citizens to safer areas.
Looking to the Future
When I first came into office my goals were personal in nature. Over eight years, I believe I have gained a better understanding of the needs of our citizens. I have realized that the best part of my job is helping people solve their problems ranging from potholes to traffic to floods. The hardest part is the fact that we do not always have the answers, but we work hard to find out who does. You cannot do everything by yourself, and I have learned to appreciate the team we have built. Our department heads and staff help people on a daily basis.
One item that become more apparent, is the future of Greenwood water. As our city grows, and it will continue to grow, I believe it is vital that we start looking for a third water source. One natural partner would be the city of Fort Smith.
A contributing factor to our future growth is the F-35/F-16 Fighter training program. The Airforce’s Foreign Military Sales program is expected to come to Ebbing Air National Guard base and is predicted to bring around $1 billion in economic impact to the River Valley and the state. The F-35/F-16 Fighter training will bring families from around the world, and we need to be proactive in welcoming them into our community.
Greenwood fits the bill for what these families will be looking for, good schools, nice neighborhoods, and one of Arkansas’ safest cities that feels like home.
I am very fortunate that 76% of Greenwood voters put their faith in me and in my pro-growth, pro-community, pro-education plan. I am committed to living up to their expectations as best I can. I will work tirelessly to represent our city on the local, state, and national levels.
When I was a kid, I used to watch my dad work his garden. He would plant his tomato seedlings then put these gigantic cages over them. I always thought it looked ridiculous with the little sprouts in the middle, but what my dad was doing, was planning for the future, because he knew those seedlings would eventually grow into huge plants. We need to do the same.
The city of Greenwood is going to grow, and we need to be poised for the changes that will come with that future growth.
Our job is to plant the seeds for the trees whose shade we may never enjoy.
May God Bless each and every one of you and the city of Greenwood.