Leader Blues

Monday, January 21, 2008

TOP STORY >> Mayor: Making forward strides

Leader staff writer

In introducing his 2008 state of the city report to the council Thursday, Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim said that Jacksonville residents have gone through some trying times, but things are looking up.

For the 12th year in a row, Jacksonville’s wastewater treatment plant has had zero permit violations.

For the 10th year in a row, the city’s finance department has been awarded a national certificate of achievement for excellence.

And, Swaim said, Jacksonville residents have shown tremendous patience as the city worked to get a number of projects off the ground.

“This is not the norm for many cities in our state,” the mayor proudly told the city council Thursday night.

He said a number of issues and projects have “tried many of our patience.” Swaim added, “The citizens of Jacksonville are to be commended for their patience.”

He was happy to report that federal money for the long proposed Joint Education Center at Little Rock Air Force Base had been funded. The city is putting up $5 million from a sales-tax fund and the Defense Department is paying $9.8 million.

“The with will certainly be worth the reward. Now plans can proceed for construction of what will equal a community college in Jacksonville,” Swaim said.

The mayor was also pleased with the progress of the new library.

“It is rising from the ground on Main Street in downtown Jacksonville and is an event many of you have waited years to see. Again, the wait has certainly been worth it because we now have a much larger site than originally planned,” Swaim said.

He also said a police and fire training facility has been fully funded through a city sales tax and is in the final planning stages.
“These projects are the results of the residents of Jacksonville’s willingness to support new ideas and efforts to improve the quality of life in our community,” the mayor said. “I am very thankful for everyone’s support.”

Highlights from the mayor’s 36-page report include:

• Jacksonville saw 290 violent crimes in 2007, including five homicides. Arrests have been made in all five of those homicides.Property crimes dropped from 1,828 in 2006 to 1,626 in 2007. The value of property stolen in 2007 was down about $500,000 from the previous year.

• The city’s district court saw a decreased case load during 2007, dealing with 12,720 cases, about 1,200 less than in 2006. The court docket included 6,458 criminal cases, 6,130 traffic cases and 132 DWI cases.

Fines and forfeitures totaled $1.36 million, down about $40,000 from 2006.

• In 2007, the city’s animal shelter handled 2,779 animals. Of those, 440 were returned to their owners, 843 were adopted and 1, 426 were euthanized. Forty-five bites were reported during the year, 11 of those were animal on animal and 34 were animal on human bites.

• Almost $30 million in building permits were issued in 2007 with about half of that in the form of single-family home permits.

• The city suffered nearly $200,000 in fire loss during 2007, but estimated fire savings, based on the quick response of firefighters at just about $1 million.

• The city’s engineering department, in its milling and overlay project, had more than 4,000 tons of asphalt laid and 4,455 square yards milled at a cost of $243,000.

• As work began on the new library, the current city library continued to see increases in usage as more than 135,000 items were checked out, about 1,000 more than in 2006.

• Jacksonville’s ambulance service collection rate for 2007 was about 70 percent, above the collection rate of surrounding cities.

• The Splash Zone, the city’s aquatic park, brought in $163,588 in its third year of operation, averaging more than 300 visitors daily during its 84-day season.

• The city’s beautification department planted more than 6,400 flowers and shrubs in 2007, picked up 1,179 bags of trash and 104 used tires from city rights-of-way and cleared 23.422 linear feet of drainage.

• In 2007, the city hired 25 full time employees and 17 part time employees. Altogether, the city has more than 300 employees.

• Jacksonville’s sanitation department collected more than 1.2 million pounds of recyclables, saving the city $12,415 in landfill fees. The department also collected 7,142 tons of garbage which cost the city $154,477 in landfill fees.

• The senior center home- delivered more than 44,300 meals in 2007.

• More than 500 babies were born at Rebsamen Medical Center, now called North Metro Medical Center.

The hospital recorded more than 21,600 emergency room visits, 1,580 surgeries and 42,940 outpatient visits. The hospital provides around 500 jobs impacting the community with more than $17.3 million in salaries and wages.

• Employees at the city’s garage worked all year keeping more than 250 city vehicles in operation.