Crawford County is eyeing improvements and growth and so is the forum to give the municipal leaders a chance to share.
County Judge Dennis Gilstrap along with some of the mayors representing the eastern portion of Crawford County met for a brief luncheon at the Alma Community Building on Wednesday.
It was a joint effort with the Alma Rotary and Alma Chamber of Commerce and something that just evolved over time.
“We’ve hosted candidate forums and we just wanted to give the judge and the mayors an opportunity to talk about how things are going in the county,” said Bryan Huff, executive director of the Alma Chamber of Commerce. “In the past, we had the judge and the Alma mayor talk at the chamber banquet, but we needed to make some changes. We didn’t want to take away that opportunity, so we started to expand it.
“We should be doing this next year and hopefully get more mayors involved.”
Mulberry Mayor Gary Baxter was among the mayors to talk about the improvements to the cities and the new challenges that he and his counterparts face.
“It used to be kids would graduate high school and move away to work, but now they look at their hometown and want to live there, but work somewhere else,” Baxter said. “We have to make sure the amenities are there for them. As life changes, [our cities] have to change and we have to do those things that those people will want.”
Among the expansion for Mulberry is the addition of the children’s wing at the library, road improvements, the wastewater plant and replacing the older water lines.
Mulberry also recently approved a bond issue to replace the fire truck, which was wrecked last year on I-40.
Rudy Mayor James Jones was heralded as the mayor of the “fastest growing town in Arkansas” before he shared that Rudy has money in the bank, expanded the town’s size to 1,500 acres and will have a Love’s truck stop opening by the end of March.
Gilstrap outlined the ongoing road improvements and maintenance and how the weather has actually cooperated this year.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Gilstrap said. “It’s either been wet or it’s been cold, but it hasn’t been wet and cold at the same time where we have to deal with a lot of ice.”
The county now has backup generators at the courthouse and the 911 communication tower to help keep services running during a power outage. Previously, the county had battery back-up which had enough power for two to three hours.
Gilstrap also noted the county has repurposed the former detention center to move the county clerk and the public defender’s office. The relocation of the public defender will save the county about $16,000 in rent. The county records will also move into the facility.
Gilstrap mentioned the intermodal report will be released next month and he has confidence it will be positive for the county.
Alma Mayor Keith Greene said his city is “still moving with numerous infrastructure, roadway and sidewalk improvements.” Greene is looking to “enhance Alma as a destination for family and entertainment” as the city continues to discuss and implement trail projects.
Greene also highlighted the completion of the Arkansas 162 to help the flow of traffic north and south without the interference of the railroad, and to make it safer for school buses.
He also noted there is a delay in the streetscaping project due to the lack of official records to display the right of way for Oak, Walnut, Plum and Ash streets.
“We have no official records to define the right of way on those side streets,” the Alma mayor said of the required review by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. “We have a plat of the downtown area. However, we’re not sure the department will accept this as proof.”