WM Mayor issues ‘State of the City’

WM Mayor issues ‘State of the City’

Johnson offers highlights of the year that was with an eye toward tomorrow

news@theeveningtimes.com

West Memphis Mayor Bill Johnson issued his 2016 state city report at the last city council meeting in February. State statute requires mayors to submit the report within the first 90 days of each year a complete report on the financial activities of the city. In the document Johnson provided a department by department recap of the activities of the city last year.

“I will not read it,” said Johnson. “I have presented it to you and that complies with the law.

The mayor did talk during the council meeting about some key personnel that had moved on during the last year.

Johnson characterized the year as a successful one and packed with accomplishments but in his introduction the mayor lamented the retirement of longtime leaders in the city administration. Utilities Manager John Rimmer, Purchasing Manager Renita Rash, Community Development Coordinator Alvalu Sides and Airport Manager Lynda Avery all retired. Economic Developer Ward Wimbish resigned to take a similar position in Oregon.

“I will take a moment to acknowledge a few people that have left us.,” said Johnson. “These people accounted for approximately 175 years of dedicated service.”

The mayor used department reports to compile his message.

Planning and Development reported an up tick in new housing starts. The city issued 22 permits for new single family homes and another 74 additions or remodeling jobs were applied for at residences. The big numbers came from industrial and commercial projects worth more than $37 million under 15 permits for new construction with another 15 businesses remodeling.

Community Development utilized summer church group volunteer labor to rehabilitate 34 homes for the disabled or elderly low income home

owners.

Transit

in West Memphis continued to be provided by the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) connecting commuters to Memphis. An alternative

transportation project, the Big River Crossing part of the Main-to-Main connector via the Harahan Bridge opened in October with more than 65,00 visitors in the first month. The $18 million bike and pedestrian bridge connected the Greenline bike path through Memphis to Broadway in West Memphis.

Public Works

and the Arkansas Department of Highways signed a memorandum of understanding to complete the South Loop Extension. Waverly Rd.

and Port Rod would be connected with work intended

for 2018. An AHTD

Interchange redesign including a traffic light are being designed for College Blvd. at South Service Rd.

10,000 feet of asphalt street overlays were done on some streets in the southeast part of the city. The $2.6 million Southland drive began construction.

After a short list of finishing work the road could open any day connecting 7th street to Ingram Blvd.

north of the Interstate interchange. The city agreed with Marion and the State to fix the Hino road bridge over the 15 Mile Bayou.

Community recycling dropped at City Hall increased 11 percent over last year amounting to 167,000 pounds. Paint recycling discontinued but electronic

waste was a continued success.

the department picked up grants from the ADEM and Walmart.

Police

graduated six new officers from its very own basic training academy in November. The department laid the groundwork for the DETER program in cooperation with the United States Department of Justice.

Crime data helped identify violent crime neighborhoods and the department systematically targets those areas. A DOJ grant funded the hiring and pay of two additional officers for three years.

The Airport, Economic Development, Tourism and West Memphis Utilities

were not included in the mayor’s annual report.

The airport operated just in the black given fuel sales and grants. Economic Development landed a $10

million TIGER IV grant to develop the Friday–Graham Rail Spur adjacent to the city river port. The Tourism Department was changed to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and operated on $1.489 million Advertising and Promotion tax receipts and engaged in a successful online marketing plan to promote city hotels and restaurants to Memphis bound tourists.

The A& P authorized renovations and presentation technology improvements at the Eugene Woods Civic Center. Total Utilities revenue was $31.637 million and budgeted to top $31.7 million for 2017.

Things are looking up according to the mayor.

“We are very optimistic about our future,” said Johnson.

By John Rech

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