JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - During his State of the City address Thursday, Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin told a packed crowd at the Cooper Alumni Center that the city is doing great and he expects more growth in the coming year.
"I declare the state of the city is extremely strong and will continue to grow," Perrin said.
Some of the highlights from 2016 that the mayor mentioned were population growth, revenue growth, welcoming the first class of medical students at Arkansas State University, completing Interstate 555, and breaking ground on a new convention center.
"With all that, to me, people will say 'well, it's hard to believe that 2017 will have a lot to offer,'" Perrin said. "But I'm here to tell you that we have a lot to offer that's going to come out in 2017. I think 2017 is going to be probably one of the most exciting years that we've had in the city of Jonesboro."
The building permits for 2016 totaled $184 million, which is up $35 million from 2015. Mayor Perrin expects to beat that number in 2017.
"With what I know that's planned and some of the things that are coming here, I think we will be over $200 million in building permits," Perrin said.
Those permits include single-family homes, duplexes, multi-family housing, and commercial buildings.
Some of the upgrades the Parks and Recreation Department completed were new tennis courts at the Earl Bell Community Center, new pavilions and fencing at four parks, erosion control and new scoreboards at Joe Mack Campbell Park and Southside Softball Complex as well as finishing phase 1 and 2 of the walking trail at Craighead Forest Park.
"The city now owns over 1,000 acres of property with their parks," Perrin said. "What that means is we are now eligible to go for larger grants because we have 1,000 acres."
The mayor said there were 30 structures demolished in 2016 and there are 21 condemnation cases pending.
Some of the main projects ahead for 2017 include a number of road improvements.
One project is a railroad overpass at Highway 18 and Nettleton. There will actually be two overpasses in the area.
That is a $1.2 million grant for the project and they will accept bids in September.
Another road project is widening the intersection of Highway 49 (Southwest Drive) at Parker Road and another project Perrin discussed is the high traffic area on Harrisburg Road.
"When you go over the overpass, you automatically go to 2 lanes," Perrin said. "What we've asked for and got money for is to make that 5 lanes up to Forest Hill Road. We've asked the highway [department] to go back to study that to see if we can make that all the way around that curve, keep going further with 5 lanes, then go down to 3 [lanes] past our fire station and then go down to 2."
A lot of the traffic in that area comes from Central Baptist Church and the Walmart Neighborhood Market.
The city also plans to make changes to the Southwest Drive intersection at Main and Highland. Several businesses have been added to that area in the past year.
Part of that plan includes having two lanes going straight from Southwest Drive to Main Street and having two lanes turning left from Highland to Main Street.
The city is also continuing to work with private citizens to build a dog park at Craighead Forest Park.
Perrin said thousands of people come to Jonesboro every day for shopping and entertainment, so the city must keep up the infrastructure to keep those visitors coming back, stating it is important they continue to support merchants to help with local tax dollars.
Mayor Perrin went through each department within the city to update residents on their achievements in 2016.
The city had a clean legislative audit for the year. The operating budget for 2017 is $65 million.
In 2016, the Jonesboro Fire Department underwent 27,966 hours of firefighting training and education. That helped the department achieve a Class 1 Insurance Services Office rating, which helps reduce insurance premiums for residents and business owners.
Crime in Jonesboro was 2.5% higher last year than the 5-year average. The most significant changes were an increase in larceny cases and a drop in rapes.
The police department graduated 19 new officers from their two in-house police academies and 70 people graduated from the Citizens Police Academy.
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