(Photo courtesy of Brandon Chase Goldsmith)
At Monday evening’s council meeting, Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow gave the annual State of the City address:
Thank you everyone for being here. I would like to report to you tonight, that the state of our city is strong.
A city is only as strong as the people who serve it. I would like to thank our city council members: AC Brown, Ralph Meeker, Rod Powell, Daniel McDaniel, Tim Terry, and Lance Terry; City Clerk/Treasure Sharla Derry, and City Attorney Mike Hamby.
Commission Chairs: Water/Wastewater Chair John Bailey, Planning Chair Tommy Basham, Parks Chair Joel Goldstein, and A&P Chair Mike McAlister.
Department Heads: Fire Chief Stewart Bryan, Police Chief Will Dawson, Street Department Chad Grouse, Water Tim Posey, Wastewater Greg Cross, Finance Tom Marsh, Parks Tammy Briley, Planning Department Sonny Bell, and our Human Resources / Executive Assistant Danielle Smith.
Celebrating work anniversaries this past year: Shannon Harris 5 years, Tyler Lowe 5 years, Kristin Faulkenberry 10 years, and Will Dawson 20 years of service to the city.
Department Awards given out: David Smith is Firefighter of the year. Officer of the Year—Tanner Mathis, DWI Officer: Josh Sallee, Top Shot: Jason Fuller, Chief’s Award: Neva Mahan, Mayor’s Award: Daniel Mahan, and Ambassador Award: Brad Hobbs.
I would also like to thank all city employees who have worked hard through these trying times and my family especially my magnificent wife for her support over the last 8 years. I also must give a shout out to my two favorite grandkids: Madeline and Heath.
I remember as a young boy when I used to ride down main street on my bike and how safe I felt. Even as our population has grown to 9,516 in the last census, we as a community have enjoyed the security provided by our police department. We were named the fourth safest city in Arkansas for 2021. And our fire department continues to serve our citizens earning our city the recognition of being a Firewise Community for the 12thstraight year and maintaining a Class 2 ISO rating, which lowersindividual and business insurance rates.
Greenwood is a family, my family, our family. We celebrate our successes together, but we also endure our loses together. Our Bulldog family suffered several losses last year including, East Pointe Teacher, Megan Whitson, Recourse Officer, Joshua Mourton, Trapshooting Coach, Windall Wallace, Wrestling Team Member, Garrett Haralson, Retired Director of Buildings and Grounds, Earl Terry, along with GHS Principal Aaron Gamble and his son, Landry.
I first got to know Aaron Gamble when he was playing sports at the Boys & Girls club. He started volunteering as a baseball umpire, one of the best we ever had. He became our sports announcer. Aaron grew up Greenwood. He conducted himself with a maturity beyond his years. Aaron carried that professionalism with him to his work at the school. I was so excited to see other people recognize his greatness as he advanced.
We are currently looking into naming a street at the school after him. All these losses have greatly affected our whole community and we honor each and every one of them.
Our schools have maintained their standard of excellence even through the many challenges education has faced over the last year. Our school district was named #3 in the state, #1 best place to teach and without a doubt our students and staff have earnedthe title of #1 Best School District for Athletics in Arkansas. When you have a good thing, people notice. Where districts usually lose students throughout the year or retain the same numbers, Greenwood has gained about 160 students this school year and 140 last year.
To accommodate this and the growth that will come with the 188th’s new fighter jet program, the district found a way to build an additional elementary school without any costs to Greenwood’s citizens. According to the school district, their new construction will be financed through current funding and will not require any millage increases. Having another school should also help alleviate some of the peak hour school traffic.
Growing up Greenwood, I remember seeing the first new developments go up around town as the city expanded. Back then I didn’t truly understand all that went into making that happen. Projects can take months if not years to be fully realized and funded. It takes coordination between private businesses, our planning department, the chamber of commerce and the city council to make progress possible.
I would like to thank them for being forward thinking in making Greenwood open for business and more builder friendly.
In 2021, we had 77 permits for Single Family, Multi Family and Commercial with a construction value of more than five million dollars, including a Waffle House and several other new businesses. We are in the process of creating an ordinance to responsibly increase food trucks in a fair way, which will encourage more entrepreneurs to set up shop within our city.
The Economic Development Committee and Chamber of Commerce are working with realtors to identify available commercial properties for prospective developers. The committee has begun the process of working with the city council to develop a comprehensive annexation plan and strategy.
Borrowing a phrase that John F. Kennedy often used, “A rising tide raises all ships.” With the 188th training program, the Chaffee Crossing movie studio, and numerous other developments taking shape across the River Valley, we need to acknowledge, accept, and to the best of our ability control our city’s growth in a way that honors our heritage and prepares a path for future opportunities.
One example is the home of a dear friend and classmate, Bobby Bean, everyone knew him as Butch. He passed away last year, and his property is being redeveloped into duplexes that will be named Bean Place, which grows our city in a manner that respects the past.
Our expansion continues in 2022 with the bookends of The Curve and the East Village. One thing I like about bookends is that they are not permanent but can be moved.
One thing I love, is to see hometown people investing in their city. The East Village will add 251 homes to our area. One thing I have learned, is when we build infrastructure major projects follow, which over time not only provide new amenities for our citizens but grows our city’s revenue. Our administration is the first to build infrastructure crossing HWY 71 with the instillation of water lines going under the road. In 2022, we will be completing an eastside water line project that will service future growth along HWY 10.
On December 10, 2019, our citizens made a bold statement byoverwhelmingly voting for a traffic relief project on the eastside of town. Real progress takes patience, and last year we took a major step in making two $250,00 payments to ARDOT to move that project forward.
On the state level real dollars count. On the local level its people who count. The traffic relief project would not be possible without Dr. James Burgess whose land the highway will be going through. Although he will not be able to see it completed, he laid the foundation for it to happen. And to quote Councilman Daniel McDaniel, “We will be picking up the mantle to carry on his legacy.” Dr. Burgess taught me the importance of truly listening to others and that people could always use a helping hand and encouragement. I use those lessons he taught me every day.
The City ended 2021 with total cash funds of $15.8 million, reflecting an 18.3% growth. Last year, with a small investment in land by the city, Scenic Solar built the first phase of a $1.7 million solar power plant that will provide renewable energy to municipal buildings. The first year is projected to produce a significant savings of $41,651, which is a 31.4 % reduction in cost from 2021.
The current 2022 Approved City Budget is $15.2 million dollarswith committed capital spending budgeted at $5.8 million consisting of $3.46 million in new projects. The City of Greenwood’s portion of The American Rescue Plan Actamounts to $1.95 million which is being distributed over a two-year period. The first distribution of $975K was made in 2021.
A second tranche of $975K is budgeted to be received in 2022.My hope is to use these funds to help pay for a new senior center in Bell Park. The center is a place where our seasoned citizens can gather for fellowship and fun around meals or a card table. My dad used to play Skip Bo with the ladies there. He claimed to not be competitive, but he always knew who won. He was afraid the ladies were peaking at his cards. So, my wife made him a card holder. And it is still there today. One of the things the senior center does that many people do not know about is the meals on wheels program. My friend Frank Atkins is the driver,and they provide over 40 hot meals a day to home bound citizens.
A new Bell Park master plan including the newly purchased 19 acres has been completed. The plan features a new splash pad among other amenities. Last year the final phase of the promenade was completed. To give you an idea of how long we have been working on it. This project was started when I was the parks director over a decade ago and it took Tammy Briley to finally finish it.
She also oversaw the improvements to the Greenwood City Lake parking area. A few years ago, we acquired a 1931 Parker Pony Truss bridge from Hope Arkansas as part of ARDOT’s Historic Bridge Program. The bridge will serve as an entrance to the lake’s trail head. The parks commission voted to name the city lake trails after Michael LeJong.
Michael left his mark on our hearts and across Greenwood and the River Valley through his brilliant architectural designs. With all the work he was doing across the state, we were blessed to have him as the chair of our economic development committee. He loved Greenwood. Anything that we wanted to build, he was the first person we called for ideas and guidance.
Michael helped create the city he wanted to live in. He donated the money to fund our first wayfinding sign that directs visitors to attractions and places of interest. Within the next couple months, we will have a total of four signs throughout the city. I worked hand and hand with Michael on the Ed Wilkinson Community Pavilion and found out that he respected everyone’s opinion, even mine. Most importantly Michael was my dear friend and will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to have met him.
With the leadership and determination of Danielle Smith, we are in the process of acquiring the final easement for the Phase One Sidewalk Project, which begins at Denver Street and goes west along 10 Spur to Golden Years Retirement Center and then on the south side goes from the Waffle House east to Denver Street. We are looking forward to beginning the bidding process and working with ARDOT.
One of my administration’s objectives is to extend city services to as many citizens as possible. Working with water/wastewater and the street department we are currently finalizing a sewer project on Bell Road. We are also concentrating on street improvements including a possible partnership with the schooldistrict to extend the turn lane on Mount Harmony Road to help with traffic congestion.
Greenwood has a history of recovering from tragedies and struggles. From a complete rebuild of the town following the devastating 1968 tornado to emerging from the COVID pandemic, I have witnessed across generations the citizens of Greenwood step up, come together, and help one another. It is who we are as a people, each of us doing our part to build on the previous generation’s foundations.
I want your kids like me to “Grow up Greenwood.” After giving a speech at the ROTC Military Ball, a young lady approached me with her ideas for the city. From my conversation with her and other students, one goal I have is to create a Mayor’s High School Advisory Council. Over the last three years, I have worked with high school intern Gabe Hobbs, who has impressed upon me the importance of our younger generation’s voices. I want to continue to be available to citizens of all ages.
Greenwood has a rich cultural heritage. Another goal of mine is to further encourage arts and entertainment activities. I recently joined the River Valley Film Society, and I am exploring ways to bring more movies, live concerts, and visual arts projects to our city. We need to invest in developing our creative economy from painters and hair stylist to performers and builders.
As I’ve said many times, I firmly believe our community is at a crossroads of growth and development. We should be excited! It’s vital we take action to insure we prepare for this growth and think outside the box, working alongside developers and entrepreneurs, doing all we can to provide them with support and encouragement. Growth creates more opportunities for our citizens, and more investments in our community that lead to more choices, meaning people will not have to leave town to eat or shop, which ends up keeping more revenue local. We need to be proactive and prepare.
Six months ago, I placed a quote from Philippians 2:4 in our council room facing myself and the other members. It reads, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Over the last eight years, I have learned that if we all agreed with each other on every decision, then nothing significant would ever be accomplished. Our city ordinances and resolutions are made stronger through our deliberations to resolve our differences.
We all love Greenwood and have the common goal of improving our city and making it better than when we found it. I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve what has become my family, the citizens and city of Greenwood. Thank you and God bless you.