State of the City Address
Mayor Billy Ray McKelvy
February 7, 2012
Arkansas law requires mayors in cities of the first class to report to the council within the first 90 days of each year on the affairs of the city and recommend such measures as may seem advisable. This year I am including more detailed reports submitted by the head of each of the city’s departments. These reports, along with financial information and graphs are attached to this report
2011 was a good year for the City of De Queen although challenges lie ahead.
The City of De Queen’s three enterprise departments – water, sewer and sanitation – provide valuable public services at competitive rates. The water department is profitable enough that last September, the council was able to grant some rate relief to Pilgrim’s, Inc., which is the city’s largest water customer. We will need to conduct a six-month review of water rates in March and determine whether to continue this rate relief.
The sanitation department has the lowest rates of any city in southwest Arkansas, but the department is managing to make a small profit and has enough reserves to purchase a new compactor truck next year.
The city’s waste water treatment plant, which was completed in 2008, has been performing well and saving money on both power and chemical costs. However, the department is no longer generating enough revenue to cover operation costs and debt service. It will be necessary to consider a small increase in sewer rates in 2012. The city has managed to pay $300,000 in early payments on the Rural Development loan. If we can continue to make advance payments, we can reduce the loan principal enough so that after 10 years the city can refinance, combine two loans into one, reduce the payments and speed up the loan payoff.
The street department spent $217,163 on the street program last year, which is a big commitment for a small city.
The Parks Department completed the soccer field project in Herman Dierks Park last year. Interest continues to grow and an opening ceremony for the field is scheduled this spring.
Last year the council passed an ordinance reorganizing the fire department and repealed the old 1945 ordinance. I have appointed the full-time fire marshal as the fire chief and that seems to be working well. The chief has established a two-stage call-out system with the dispatcher. The full-time firefighters can handle many of the minor calls during the day, while the chief always has the option of sounding an “all-call” alarm to activate the volunteers. This system resulted in 32 fewer fire calls in 2011 than the year before. The Fire Department reworked a four-wheel drive vehicle donated by the Arkansas Forestry Commission and converted it into an off-road brush truck. The old brush truck was released to the Central Volunteer Fire Department.
The Police Department is at full strength and all officers are certified at this time.
Results of the 2010 census were released last year and showed De Queen with an increase in population. Only Miller and Sevier Counties posted population increases. We are a diverse community. The census shows De Queen’s population is 53 percent Hispanic.
City ward boundaries have been redrawn to reflect new census data.
Downtown De Queen saw a rebirth in 2011. Owners renovated three old buildings into modern facilities that house local businesses. The Smiles of Arkansas Dental Clinic in the Cultural Awareness Center was expanded to take in two small meeting rooms. Their business is good and they are now asking the city for additional space.
In 2011, the Arkansas General Assembly passed a law to require all water systems with 5,000 or more customers to add fluoride to the water. The equipment will be paid for by a grant from Delta Dental. The equipment has been purchased and delivered. Installation should begin this spring and customers will soon have fluoride in the water supply.
The project to build a new raw water line was suspended last year due to concerns about the national economy and the state of the local poultry industry. All but four of the easements have been obtained. When the economy shows signs of leveling out, the city can quickly get the project back on track. Construction is expected to take only about 90 days.
The challenge for our community is jobs and employment for our citizens. Last year the city, Sevier County, the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Park Board teamed up to hire an economic development officer. The office had four leads in 2011, one of which resulted in two prospect visits. A local group of volunteers is now working to develop a strategic plan for the county.
In 2012, I am asking the council to update the city’s personnel policy manual. The last manual was adopted in 2000 and does not address some technology issues and changes in federal laws. I am working with the city attorney to get back to the work of codifying city ordinances into a single, easy-to-use document.
In conclusion, I want to thank the citizens of De Queen for allowing me to serve as mayor. I am grateful to the City Council and the city employees for your dedication to the city. It is an honor to serve with you.
Thank you and may God continue to bless the City of De Queen.
Donna Jones, City Clerk-Treasurer
In Administration department during 2011, we continued to learn about our new accounting software and finessed the way we do business.
We are very pleased with what we have right now. It is a huge improvement over the old system. Three people will attend this year’s training in Little Rock to ensure that we are maximizing all the benefits the new system offers. At year end, a new server was necessary and that transition went smoothly. Other computer upgrades from last year were in the area of our Laserfiche programming. This is the software that allows us to archive all of our permanent records. Currently, we have all Ordinances and most of the resolutions scanned and continue to add to the data base. Our goal is to have the last 10 years of minutes and supporting documentation scanned by year end 2012.
In the utility billing department, we saw more customers taking advantage of our bank drafts, making our revenues a little more stable at the first of each month. We would like to see these numbers continue to grow. Also, with data that we now require for new or repeat customers, we were able to recapture approximately $1,600 in revenue that had been written off as bad debt in years past. In the New Year, we will purchase new utility billing software that will mate up to our new accounting software. Currently, the old billing system requires the use of the old accounting system and that is risky, since we have no support through the supplier. We would not be able to finalize a monthly billing cycle without the old software. The conversion of utility billing is scheduled to take place in March or April.
We are working to create an offsite back up program for our computer files, at the request of our auditors. This was attempted last year and was not successful, and we will continue to research and, hopefully, be compliant before the end of the first quarter.
We look forward to the improvements that are planned for 2012. The administration staff is here to serve the citizens in our community and appreciate your input on ways that we may better serve.
The mayor and I worked really hard getting the websites up and running for the City of De Queen, Sevier County and the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce. Prospects can go to any one of the websites and find a listing of our buildings and our demographics.
The Sevier County Rural Development Board (RDA) and I helped a local business purchase inventory that in turn helped them to get their small business up and running.
In 2012 you will see some development at the De Queen Business Park. The De Queen Industrial Park Public Facilities Board (DIPPFB) voted at the December meeting to hire Tommy Wagner to do dirt work at the park. Mr. Wagner will work on the road and get four lots ready for development. The work at the park will be done in phases with Mr. Wagner’s job being phase one.
For safety reasons Pilgrim’s would like to close a portion of Red Bridge Road from the railroad tracks to the west of their property. At this time there is a house located on the south side of the road. The house was owned by two brothers and a sister. The mayor and I have been working with the RDA to take possession of the house (to be later sold to Pilgrim’s.) The RDA has successfully purchased the two brothers interest in the property. The sister is not interested in selling, if she does not sell, we will ask the courts to put the property up for sale and one of the parties will be the sole owner.
I am continuing to stay in touch with contacts at Pilgrim’s Pride in order to monitor their situation in a tough economy.
As you know the Weyerhaeuser Treating plant was auctioned off in September. The DIPPFB attended the auction hoping to purchase the property, but they were out bid. The owners agreed to work with us when we get a prospect.
I am still talking with Sage Partners about the sale of the old Wal-Mart building. They keep telling me that they have a buyer and are working through the contract with them, I hope to know more soon.
Sevier County received four prospects this past year, three from Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and one from AEP/SWEPCO. One of the prospects ended up going to Shreveport and the other three are on hold for now. I attended a state economic development meeting where the late Maria Haley (AEDC Director) reported that AEDC has 73 prospect files on hold. These prospects are waiting to see what is going to happen with the U. S. economy.
Sevier County did see several new small businesses open up in 2011. Even though they are small they still provide jobs and add to the county’s tax base. I look forward to more new small businesses in 2012.
Fire Chief Dennis Pruitt
In 2011, the De Queen Fire Department saw a decrease in calls compared to 2010. In 2011 we responded to a total of 108 calls, down from 140 in 2010. Grass and wild land fires still dominate the number of calls, with only 14 structure fires in 2011.
Also in 2011, the Fire Department received a truck from the Arkansas Forestry Commission which was outfitted by firefighters in house. This truck replaced our previous brush truck. It was put into service as Truck 5 and almost immediately was put into use suppressing wild fires and protecting structures.
In October of 2011, during fire safety week, the Fire Department conducted fire safety programs for grades Pre-K-3rd at local schools. Children were able to participate on stage with firefighters and Sparky the dog.
The biggest change in 2011 was the appointment of the fire chief. This change went over better than expected. We also implemented a new callout procedure for daytime calls and after 4:30 p.m. fire calls. The county has a new emergency call out sheet that will call the fire chief on a non-emergency, and he will determine whether or not to call out the whole fire department. This has saved the City several thousand dollars, the chief gets called out several times each month.
All in all this has been a good year with a lot of change. But, sometimes change is a good thing.
Code Enforcement/Permit Department
In 2011 our department issued 160 permits and received revenues of $15,476.19. Revenues were up from last year by a few thousand dollars due to remodeling and building of residential and commercial buildings.
De Queen continues to have a healthy growth in the number of single family homes despite the housing recession that is gripping the nation. We have an average of four single dwellings being built each year.
There were many commercial buildings being remodeled in the downtown area. These remodels have revitalized the downtown area and have encouraged other business owners to improve the exterior and interior of their buildings, thus giving them the years of yesterday look.
Code enforcement has started the process of having 10 structures remodeled or removed due to health and safety concerns for the surrounding community.
The Code Enforcement Department will strive to safeguard life, health, property and public welfare by enforcing codes and ordinances regulating and controlling the design, construction, quality of materials, use and occupancy, location and maintenance of all buildings and structures within the City of De Queen.
Chief Richard McKinley
The 2011 year had many challenges for the De Queen Police Department. Monitoring sex offender activity is one of our many duties. We currently have 10 active, registered sex offenders who live within the city limits. Sex offender levels range from one to four: one being the lowest and four the highest risk. We have only level one and level two offenders living in the city. We have two level threes, one level two and one assessed, all of which are currently incarcerated. State law requires us to check on residential and job status twice a year. We verify residences four times a year.
Patrol officers responded to 5,549 total calls in 2011, this is slightly lower from the 5,595 from 2010. Officers issued a total of 1,838 traffic citations while on patrol in 2011. Officers worked 266 accidents and 2,258 escort and assist calls. Officers issued 38 DWI citations and made 57 felony arrests. There were 478 offense report sent into NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System) these include criminal offenses.
Officers investigated six unattended deaths, one of which is under investigation. We also had one person being charged with the murder of Kason Smith, a baby. We arrested four people in a 35-vehicle break-in spree. We arrested two people in the Ninth St. EZ Mart and downtown armed robberies. We recovered a stolen Pilgrim’s fuel truck and arrested one person for the theft.
The De Queen Police Department received $10,400 for the State Underage Drinking Grant which will be spent on the Underage Drinking Programs that the state offers. We also received a JAG Grant for $3,500 for the purchase of a new Toshiba copier for the Police Department. We were awarded $5,000 from the Association of Chiefs of Police and $5,000 from the Federal Jag Grant. Wal-Mart awarded us with a $1,000 in December for the Shop-with-a-cop program. Also, Fred’s gave us $500.
All 13 officers and three reserve officers completed above the minimum requirement hours for the Standards Training in 2011. Officers focused on firearms training, domestic violence and racial profiling.
In 2008 a lawsuit was filed against the De Queen Police Department and was dismissed by a Federal Judge in 2011.
The drug-take back program resulted in over 600 lbs. of drugs being collected and disposed of by the State Police. This was a great success for the De Queen area.
The De Queen Police Department also auctioned off 80 handguns and three long guns. The plan for 2011 is to sell 80 more long guns. Two confiscated vehicles used in drug activity and two retired police cars were also sold.
Street and Sanitation Department
Mike Van Houtan
The year 2011 began with an earlier than normal street program, due to the retirement in May of long-time street superintendent Lonnie Willmon. Mike VanHoutan was appointed as the city’s new street superintendent.
We began the year preparing streets for overlaying with asphalt, stabilizing of patches before overlaying, cutting back of shoulders and adding curb and gutter on Second Street and Gilson Avenue. We also cleaned out ditches and trimmed all overhanging limbs and trees where paving was to take place.
After overlaying of the streets was completed, we placed base material on the shoulders of the road, replaced rusted out culverts, rebuilt ditches, tore out and replaced a city block of sidewalk on Sixth Street and repaired one block of sidewalk on Gilson Avenue.
City clean-up included ongoing pick-up and disposal of brush, leaves and trees, picking up and disposing of class four materials and mowing of city street rights-of-way.
The sanitation department has two sanitation routes, residential and commercial, that run four days per week. They average two loads per day per route.
All street and sanitation vehicles and equipment are maintained on a daily basis.
The street department assisted other city departments as needed.
The plant upgrade is in its third year of operation. An extensive preventive maintenance program is in place and will help prolong the life of the new and old equipment. Plant operators have got a good handle on all the new electronics and learn something new every day, it seems. The plant is manned eight hours a day, seven days a week. In March 2011 the phosphorus and nitrate limits went into effect. This makes the plant an advanced biological nitrogen/phosphorus removal facility. As more products become “Eco” friendly (no phosphate) and more people use them, the hope is that less phosphate will enter the plant.
A total of 763,300,000 gallons were treated in 2011. At a power cost of $124,511 and chemical cost of $22,347. In previous years these two line items would have been budgeted at $250,000 each. That’s a total savings of $353,142. This is almost enough to make the $403,630 yearly loan payment. One new and one remanufactured blower have been added to the four-blower system.
The department has seven employees, one department head, three plant operators, and three collection personnel. All personnel have obtained an operator’s license with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. One class 4, two class 3, and 3 class 1 operators.
In November 2011 the collection department started a proactive sewer line cleaning and televising program which will head off sewer backups in 2012. A total of 123 sewer line backups were worked last year. The department replaced 397 feet of six-inch and eight-inch sewer pipe. Also repairs were made to a total of six major line section. Manhole repairs totaled three and seven sewer taps have been replaced in 2011. There were four new homes put on the sewer system. New backup pumps were purchased for the Westwood and 70 East Lift Stations. We have already used the Westwood backup pump.
City of De Queen Waste Water Treatment Plant Annual Totals
New Treatment Plant Started August 2008
We will be adding fluoride to the city water supply for the first time in 2012. We naturally have fluoride or fluorine in our water supply (Cossatot River). Levels are usually in the 005mg/l to .008mg/l range in the water coming from the River. Our goal will be to add enough fluoride so that combined with the naturally-occurring fluoride, we have a level of .08 mg/l. A chemical feed pump will be used to increase the fluoride level.
Too much Fluoride in water can cause mottled teeth etc. and not enough will just be a waste of money and time. All reports show that the best level to maintain a constant and be most beneficial to the customer is .09 or .08 mg/l (mg/l is millograms per liter).
In 2011 we made 834.833 million gallons of water, which was less than in 2010. In the drier years, of course, we make more water, with everyone watering gardens, lawns etc. In 2008 and 2009 we made about 788.00 million gallons, but we had really wet year.
In 2011 we were planning to get started on replacing our raw water line from the river to town. But with the current economic situation, it has been delayed. We were going to pay for that line mostly with our own funds, which is very uncommon in today’s times.
In 2012 we will continue to produce a clean and affordable water source for our customers in De Queen.