Maumelle State of the City

February 2019 - Mayor Caleb Norris

Ladies and gentlemen of the Maumelle City Council, department heads, city employees, and my fellow citizens, Arkansas law requires that within the first 90 days of the year I must report to you the municipal affairs of the city and recommend such measures as may seem advisable. This is that report.

As you are aware, 2018 was an election year. The positions of Mayor, City Attorney, City Clerk/Treasurer, and four city council seats were up for election. The majority of these positions saw contested races with the Mayor’s race and one of the City Council seats seeing three candidates each.

This year we have seen a new mayor, a new city attorney, and two new city council members. The margin in each contested race was decisive. As such, each elected official has a mandate from the people and the moral obligation to act on those issues upon which they campaigned.

With the City’s total budget exceeding $17 million a year, we must be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money. To do that we must not only have a long-term financial plan to address anticipated expenditures, but also put into place a plan to increase revenues without increasing the tax rate. In 2019, I will present to the Council a plan to reduce our current bond debt to save taxpayers from unnecessary interest payments. I will also propose an overhaul to the budget and the budgeting process that will better facilitate long-term financial planning for anticipated capital expenditures. Through proper prior planning, we really can prevent poor performance.

We also need to invest in the infrastructure necessary to recruit the types of retail, restaurant, entertainment, and commercial entities that generate revenue and provide the services that Maumelle residents desire. This is especially true at the White Oak Crossing Interchange, which is currently under construction and in north Maumelle. With these areas on the outskirts of town, commercial growth will not negatively impact the quality of life for Maumelle residents in our neighborhoods.

At the general election in 2014, Maumelle voters approved bonds to finance the much-needed remodel and renovation of City Hall. We have recently selected the architects that will handle the designs and we hope to have construction underway later this year.

Aside from the obvious change in Mayor, the Mayor’s office is already seeing substantial changes through the addition of the newly modified positions of Staff Assistant and Communications Coordinator. These positions are already contributing to increased productivity in the Mayor’s office and communication to and from City Hall.

Maumelle Police Department

The Police Department, led by Chief Sam Williams, saw a slight 3% drop in overall calls for service in 2018. Crimes against persons were down 6%, crimes against property were down 10%, but crimes against society (such as drug and weapons violations) saw an increase of 37%.

In 2017 we had 197 thefts from automobiles, nearly all were unlocked vehicles, while in 2018 we had 192, and again nearly all of the vehicles were unlocked. This is a decrease of almost 3%, but this is still too high. This is an easily avoidable crime, so please lock your vehicles.

One category that bears mentioning is the homicide in October of 2018. This is still an actively-worked, on-going investigation. As you know, there was another homicide earlier this month that has led to an arrest and charges of 1st Degree Murder. Such horrendous crimes are thankfully extremely rare in Maumelle, but we are not entirely exempt from some of the unfortunately realities of the world we live in.

The Patrol Division saw a slight increase of less than 1% in vehicle collisions in 2018, but there was almost a 28% increase in injury collisions. Traffic Stops were up 12% with over 3,200 violators contacted, while traffic citations were down 2% with 631 citations issued last year.

The increases in injury collisions and traffic stops have lead the Department to initiate a special shift to assist in the highest call volume times, this two officer team will focus on traffic enforcement and local warrant service. This team is designed to free up other patrol officers to respond quicker to criminal calls and allow them more time to patrol their assigned districts to create a higher visibility in order to deter criminal activity.

One of the top concerns of Maumelle residents is speeding through residential neighborhoods. Traffic enforcement is only one solution to the problem. Currently, we are exploring alternative solutions address the issue and I expect to propose some solutions to the City Council before the end of the year.

Last year, the Police Department hired 3 new officers—one of which was already a certified law enforcement officer with experience. Of those, the two newly certified officers have already resigned. It remains difficult to recruit and retain quality law enforcement officers. The Department currently has three vacancies they are seeking to fill.

Maumelle Fire Department 

The Maumelle Fire Department, led by Chief Gerald Ezell, continues to be a leader in Arkansas with one of the top trained departments in the State. They pride themselves in providing not only EMS and suppression services, but also top-notch Fire Prevention, Code Enforcement, and Fire Education to our citizens.

For the year 2018, 193 business inspections were conducted within the City of Maumelle, resulting in the correction of 69 code violations. The Fire Marshalls continue to do an excellent job of assuring that new businesses to the City of Maumelle are following fire code and are some of the safest places in Arkansas for our citizens and visitors.

The total number of responses for the year was 1,689. Medical emergencies, traumatic injuries, and medical assists made up the largest percentage of emergency runs at 69%. Fire responses consisted of 58 calls with 23 structure fire calls.

In 2018, the Fire Department created the position of Division Chief of Training to develop and implement a training program for the department. Education and training for fire department personnel is a high priority and an ongoing process to provide the citizens of Maumelle with one of the highest trained and educated fire departments in the State.

The Maumelle Fire Department also has three firefighters currently in the Paramedic Program at Southeast Arkansas College, which will bring our total to eight Paramedics in late 2019. This will allow us to provide Advanced Life Support to the citizens of Maumelle daily.

The new Pierce Fire Engine for Station 1 was delivered at the end of January 2018 and its addition to the fleet has proven to be a true asset to the department and the City.

Public Safety

With the construction of the White Oak Crossing Interchange, the development of that area, and our anticipated annexation of lands, we need to begin planning for the public safety needs in east Maumelle. In particular, we need to begin financial planning for Fire Station #3 so that the City doesn’t find itself in a place where additional bonds are required to satisfy our public safety needs.

Department of Senior Services

The Department of Senior Services, led by Nicole Vogler, continues to strengthen our 50+ community through the services provided at the Maumelle Center on the Lake, promoting health and well-being for this population.

Senior Services completed its first full-year of services at the Maumelle Center on the Lake with a total membership of 1,607, which you may recognize as being just shy of 10% of Maumelle’s population. The Center on the Lake had over 108,000 member visits logged. Its café served over 20,500 meals. They logged over 6,700 trips and 16,241 total volunteer hours. I want to send a special THANK YOU to each and every person that volunteers at the Center on the Lake. Although we have tremendous staff members, volunteers are instrumental to making this department a success.

Beginning in 2019, Senior Services staff members have each developed 3 SMART goals to achieve this year. These goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and able to be completed within 12 months. A common theme among these goals is to improve communications with members and Maumelle residents.

A focus group, comprised of Center on the Lake members, is currently underway. The purpose of the group is to analyze the current fee structure, explore additional revenue streams, and summarize their analysis in a report to my office.

Public Works

Led by Mike Hogan, Public Works, and its multiple divisions including Animal Services, Building/Fleet/Grounds Maintenance, Streets, and Sanitation are poised for another industrious year.

Public Works—Streets Division 

In 2018 & early 2019, the majority of Woodland Drive and a portion of Stoneledge were milled and overlaid—a much needed improvement for a street connecting Odom North and Edgewood. In the next twelve months, we will see some long overdue improvements to the stormwater drainage system on Victoria Circle and a badly needed overlay improvement project on that street.

For 2019, the City Council approved $400,000 for Street Infrastructure-Overlays, which is $100,000 more than in recent years. As such, we will see additional street improvement overlay projects on streets to be determined. One issue that arose during the last budget sessions was the need for an analysis of the annual funding necessary to maintain or improve the conditions of City streets over the long run. For this to be successful we will need a thorough audit of the condition of city streets, the rate of their deterioration, and the estimated costs of improvement. Currently, we are exploring technologies and services that will provide us the data needed to make informed decisions for improving and preserving our roadway infrastructure.

While we are on the topic of roads, the 60% engineering plans for the proposed roundabout at Odom South and Club Manor were presented at a public hearing this month. As the plans near completion and more accurate construction-cost estimates become available, the City Council will need to decide whether to proceed with this project and, if so, how it will be funded as there are currently no funds appropriated or designated for this project.

As you are aware, one of Mayor Watson’s final acts as Mayor was the hosting of a ground-breaking ceremony for the White Oak Crossing Interchange at I-40. Construction is underway and we should all be able to use that interchange by Christmas. Lighting is being installed along the White Oak Crossing extension and should be operative soon, but the Council will need to consider a roundabout connecting Country Club Parkway with White Oak Crossing. A traffic study is currently underway analyzing current and future projected traffic counts at the intersection of Diamond Park Lane and White Oak Crossing. Should the City Council decide to proceed with a roundabout there, money will need to be appropriated for engineering design and construction.

In 2012, Maumelle voters approved the issuance of approximately $3.2 million in bonds to widen and rebuild portions of Crystal Hill Road (and a short portion of Counts Massie Road that intersects it), both of which are within the City of Maumelle. Current designs show a 4-lane road with a roundabout at the intersection of Crystal Hill & Counts Massie. However, in an effort to prevent an unnecessarily large and overdeveloped road and to save taxpayer money, engineers are in the preliminary stages of designing a two-lane road with a median and no roundabout. If progress continues as anticipated, a sketch of the new plans will be presented to the City Council next month. Crystal Hill is in desperate need for improvements and some good old fashioned TLC, but we do NOT need it to be a 4-lane highway.

I am hopeful that the Adaptive Traffic Signal Control System, which involves updating the traffic signals along Maumelle Boulevard will make significant progress this year. This project involves five different governments—it’s federal money on a state highway that travels through the City of Maumelle, the City of North Little Rock, and Pulaski County. Just last week the City received authority from the Arkansas Department of Transportation to advertise the project.

Sufficient lighting along City streets is an important public safety issue and too many existing street lights not functioning. In conjunction with Public Works, my office is making a concerted effort to remedy this situation. In fact, I have had two meetings with representatives from Entergy about a city-wide push to repair improperly functioning lights and we explored the feasibility of adding new street lights in certain areas around town. Maumelle drivers should already see improved lighting along Maumelle Boulevard.

The Edgewood Sidewalks project, which will greatly increase walkability around City Hall, is expected to begin March 1st and should be completed by the end of June.

Public Works—Animal Services Division

Returning to the Department of Public Works, the Animal Services Division saw approximately 5,100 visitors to the shelter in 2018. The office received 5,300 calls and 6,000 emails with questions and service requests from citizens and members of the public for a total of 16,400 points of contact with the public. Total animal intake was 574 and zero positive rabies cases were reported. A special THANK YOU goes out to the Maumelle Friends of the Animals for their support of Animal Services.

Public Works—Sanitation Division

As usual, the Sanitation Division has been busy over the past year. In 2018, Single Stream Recycling amounted to 520 tons. Transfer Station staff baled and sold 86 bales of cardboard totaling 47.3 tons, 2.5 tons of mixed plastics, nearly 9 tons of steel cans, 31.5 tons of mixed glass, and 35 tons of mixed paper.

In total, the sanitation crew disposed of 5,220 tons of solid curbside waste & 584 tons of transfer station solid waste. Curbside yard waste totaled 4,500 cubic yards.

2019 will be the first full year the City’s sanitation fees are billed and collected by Central Arkansas Water, which is already decreasing the number of delinquent accounts.

Finance Department

And this brings us to the Finance Department led by Shannon Vega. The new purchase order system implemented in 2018 has been a resounding success by streamlining processes and increasing internal controls. Effective January 1, 2019, the department has moved to a paperless environment resulting in quicker and easier access to information needed for daily business, research, and audits. Emphasis has been placed on cross-training finance employees to be able to successfully handle workloads in an employee’s absence.

I’m excited to announce that once the City Council accepts the 2017 audit presented at the last Council meeting, we will be completely caught up with the audits.

Office of the City Clerk/Treasurer

City Clerk/Treasurer Tina Timmons and the finance director worked hard throughout 2018 to make sure that the clerk’s office and the finance department coordinated their efforts and worked together as a team.

In 2018, the City Clerk’s office was able to facilitate the installation of fiber optic cabling at City Hall and the Robert Cogdell Public Works Complex. The installation of the fiber optic cabling will allow the city to have over 13 times more bandwidth. The switch will allow for a Voice Over IP phone system, which will be installed later this year. In order to save money, the City Clerk also renegotiated contracts for dumpster service, telephone service, and cell phone service.

Office of the City Attorney

In 2018, the City Attorney prosecuted all misdemeanors, traffic violations, and ordinance violations in Maumelle District Court, resulting in 2,228 charges processed. He also handled truancy matters for Pine Forest Elementary, Maumelle Middle School, and Maumelle High School through the Pulaski County Juvenile Court system.

The City Attorney oversaw litigation in civil matters involving the City. In 2018, there was one new civil litigation case filed against the City of Maumelle, Jennifer Corriveau vs. City of Maumelle, which concerns the method for payment of overtime compensation. Another case remained in active litigation: Steven A. Mosley et al vs. City of Maumelle et al., which concerns the City’s attempts to enforce its fence ordinances.

Since taking office this year, City Attorney Melissa Krebs has met with local school personnel, as well as the Assistant Superintendent for the Pulaski County Special School District, to update the process for truancy prosecution and encourage more parent communication at every level. The City Attorney also plans to continue working with Human Resources in updating the Employee Handbook and other policies.

Department of Human Resources

Perhaps the City’s greatest assets are our employees. Led by Jared Azzone, the Department of Human Resources had a busy year. In 2018, Human Resources conducted an examination of the City’s benefit package and, in consultation with various Department heads, opted to change providers of the City’s medical and pharmacy plan, vision plan, and voluntary benefit offerings to City employees. In December, HR oversaw the changes, which are expected to result in better services for City employees with only a minimal cost increase to the City.

HR also focused on training for department heads, managers, and supervisors. All supervisory staff have received drug and alcohol abuse recognition training in order to properly identify and recognize employees who may be under the influence and in turn to reduce, if not eliminate, the risk of such employees. Additionally, in July 2018, HR sponsored Basic Supervisor Training for all managers and department heads. This training was designed to help avoid legal action resulting from common HR issues, such as discrimination, harassment, and ADA/FMLA/Workers Compensation claims.

HR also hosted the City’s tenth annual Employee Appreciation Day where 24 full-time employees were recognized for their years of service. Most notably, Phillip Raborn with Parks and Recreation and Wayne McPherson with Public Works were recognized for 25 years of service with the City.

This year, the City plans to conduct an extensive salary study and analysis to evaluate the City’s overall compensation packages. Additionally, an update to the City’s personnel manuals is long overdue and the goal is to have them updated this year.

In an effort to recognize the some of our outstanding employees, I have created the Mayor’s Employee of the Month program where the City’s highest achieving employees will be recognized for their contributions.

Department of Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation Department, led by Phillip Raborn, strives to improve upon the services offered to the citizens of Maumelle while contributing to the overall sense of community in town.

For Parks & Rec, 2018 was the year of staffing transitions and roofs. Staff transitions resulted in a turnover of 37.5% of full-time employees, including the Facility Manager and Activities Coordinator, but they should be fully staffed by the end of the month. Last year, portions of the roof at Jess Odom Community Center were re-coated and sealed while the concessions stand at the Rolling Oaks Sports Complex received a new roof. Also, an old basketball court on Valencia Drive was torn out and a new court poured and leveled.

Parks and Rec continues to be involved in countless community events. Particularly noteworthy for 2018 was the record attendance at the Haunted House and Carnival that raised over $6,200 for the Maumelle Youth Council for their trip to Washington D.C.

Department of Building, Code Enforcement & Permits

The Department of Building, Code Enforcement & Permits is led by Jim Morley. In 2018, code enforcement issued 676 requests for compliance tags, 24 citations to appear in Maumelle District Court, and 30 storm water notices of violation.

2018 saw an increase in single family residential housing permits with 79 new permits issued, up from 60 the previous year. The total number of permits issued was up 9% to a total of 2,260 and permit revenues were up 21% to over $250,000. Twelve commercial remodel permits were issued including large projects at Dillard’s Distribution Center, Stericycle, Kroger, and Molex. There were 2 new commercial construction permits: Villa at River point Apartments that added 2 new buildings with a total of 84 new units and National Convenience Solutions.

Department of Planning and Zoning

Jim Narey, the Director of Planning and Zoning, reports that National Convenience Solutions, a warehousing and distribution operation dealing with goods and materials for convenience stores, will occupy 3.4 acres on Louis Nelson Drive and Stericycle Corporation has moved into the old Nabisco building.

In 2018—a year and a half ahead of schedule—Planning and Zoning completed updates to the Master Street Plan, which was recommended for approval (and eventually adopted) by the City Council.

Department of Community & Economic Development

In 2018, one of the primary goals Community & Economic Development, led by Judy Keller, has been Business Retention and Expansion. Part of these efforts include city-hosted quarterly business luncheons with local industrial leaders. Noteworthy happenings in the Maumelle Industrial Park include Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s completion of renovations to their facility. We are hopeful that Kimberly-Clark will commit to further expansion following the City Council’s recent approval of up to $110 million of industrial revenue bonds.

Although Molex-HPC, previously located on Bringler Drive, moved the division to Class A office space in Conway, Molex-LRC, located on Murphy drive, completed a major renovation to a portion of the facility in anticipation for the manufacturing of a new popular healthcare product. Molex-HPC’s move to office space in another City highlights Maumelle’s current lack of available Class A office space.

Also in 2018, the City began working with Entergy’s business development group and the property owners to have a 121-acre site in the industrial park recognized as a “Certified Site.” Once completed and recognized, this will greatly improve the marketability of the site to industrial prospects.

Understanding the pivotal role that consultants play in site selection, the City partnered with Metro Little Rock Alliance to host a Familiarization tour for non-local site selection consultants. One of the consultants toured Maumelle by helicopter, toured the Career and Technical Education Department at Maumelle High School, and visited Kimberly-Clark, where the plant manager provided an overview of doing business in Maumelle. Through efforts like this we hope to spread the word about Maumelle to the people in the business of selecting sites for projects.

In an effort to attract businesses to the area, the City partnered with the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce to produce two short films—one for retail and small business, which I am proud to announce we will debut following this “short” State of the City report, and one for industry.

Going forward, we will take a more collaborative, holistic, and aggressive approach to plan for and recruit retail, restaurant, entertainment, and commercial entities to the City. For example, just last Friday we received word that the City of Little Rock was courting a recreational sports entertainment venue. As soon as we heard about the company’s interest in central Arkansas, my office, Community and Economic Development, and the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce were strategizing an aggressive recruitment strategy to bring that company to Maumelle at the new Interchange. By lunch, we had a plan of action and we began implementing that plan before the day’s end. If you follow the City on social media, then you’re probably already aware of some of our actions.

In closing, 2018 was a productive year with the City’s crowning achievement being the ground breaking of the White Oak Crossing Interchange. But I am excited about 2019. I am excited about the prospects it will bring. And quite frankly, I am excited about the excitement that I see in those around me.

I said it during my campaign and I will say it again here: We are at a crossroads. The decisions that we make in the next several years will affect the City of Maumelle for generations. We must remain ever mindful that we are public servants and that we serve the residents of Maumelle.

Thank you for your time and God Bless!

  • Mayor Caleb Norris