Mayor Pro Tem Cecil Twillie, Council members, Attorney Cline,
citizens of Forrest City, Arkansas. Good evening and welcome
to this evening’s city council meeting, where I am honored
to deliver my fourth State of the City Address. It has been
a pleasure to serve each of you as Mayor of our great city.
Often times we hear about the negatives in our community, but
contrary to popular opinion Forrest City is surrounded by positive
attributes. Tonight I’ll try to highlight some of the positives.
It is true that city employees did not receive a raise for three
years, but it is also true because of steps taken by the city
administrators Forrest City is financially “Sound”.
In this strained economy, Forrest City is still moving forward.
Like almost every city in the United States, we have had some
setbacks, but through it all our government, our citizens, our
businesses, our leaders, have continued to make steps and set
goals to help our community thrive.
Throughout these trying times, tough decisions were made, -
decisions that were not always popular but necessary. One of the
toughest decisions was the one to freeze wages. As a result, no
raises were given in 2007, 2008, or 2009. Your city’s government
felt that while raises would not be granted, the more important
goal of keeping people working would be. I do not believe that
anyone would disagree that jobs are important during hard economic
Yet, your government, in an effort to ease the burden of not
giving a raises for the last three years, has awarded city employees
with a $1,000 bonus for the last three years, an increase from
the previous $750 bonus for full-time employees, with many employees
using the funds to help stimulate our local economy.
During the 2010 budget discussions, we were all in agreement
that the employees deserved a raise and we had to figure out a
way to give them one. So, this year in addition to the $1000 bonus,
employees received an across the board 3% increase. Additionally,
for the last two years employees were paid for half of their sick
time they had accumulated over their bank, rewarding those long
term employees that do not use or abuse their sick leave.
One of the scariest topics over the last few years has been
the economy. Each budget discussion dealt with talks of lower
revenue projections. With the anticipation of lower revenue, the
council and I had to make tough decisions. We had to determine
how much and where to cut back and still maintain quality city
services without cutting positions.
In addition to making sure we funded city positions, we had to
make sure departments had equipment needed to perform their assigned
tasks. In 2007 and 2008, over $250,000 was spent on capital expenses
and in 2009 over $300,000 was spent on capital expenses.
During the course of my first term as mayor, city capitol purchases
have included 18 cars, ICOP video camera systems for the police
department, a spray machine for pest control, dump truck for street
department, refrigerator and freezer for the civic center kitchen,
exercise equipment for the multi-purpose center, playground equipment
for Lincoln and Stuart Springs Parks. The fire station and the
city shop were remodeled. We worked with county officials to upgrade
the 911 system, the Skate Park and Splash pad was completed at
the Sports complex and a new gas pump system was purchased.
The cost for purchasing these items was much more than the cost
incurred by the city. To help decrease the cost to the city, my
administration pursued many grant opportunities. In the year 2009
alone we were approved for $300,000 in appropriation money from
Senator Lincoln, over $200,000 in grant funds, and over $100,000
from the A & P. This was money that did not come out of the
city’s general fund.
Because of the decisions the council and I made early on in
this financial crisis, the city still has over 3.6 million in
reserves, which is an increase from the 3.5million in reserves
as of December 2008. From December 2006 to December 2009, the
city’s General Fund revenue increased 9%. So, again, I am
happy to report we have been good stewards of the city’s
It is true that some of our businesses have closed or had a
significant reduction, but it is also true there have been some
business openings and expansions. In the 2009 State of the City
address I talked about several business that had closed or downsized,
such as Sanyo, Harvest Foods, Colony Shop, Taylor Casbeer and
It’s a Wing Thing, but this year I am excited to highlight
some business openings and expansions.
All That Glitters, a new jewelry store, opened in February in
the Village Shop behind McDonald’s. Comfort Inn Suites Hotel
opened in July. Business Owner, Scott Carroll, pumped money back
into the community with the renovation of the Colony Shop. After
over $500,000 renovation completion the building now houses the
Divita Dialysis Center. Divita has one shift full is will soon
begin a second shift. This same business owner later won a contract
for the regional Social Security Office, which was estimated to
cost about $1,200,000. The Social Security Office is being built
on Holiday Drive and is expected to be completed by the middle
of this year.
In May, David Cohn purchased a building permit for expansion
at Forrest City Grocery with an estimated cost of almost 2 million
dollars. At that time he announced the addition of over 70 new
jobs. Airtherm called back over 40 employees. Mallory Nimocks
opened a new Circle N Store on Washington. A permit was purchased
in April for the Forrest City Independent Living Center. The estimated
cost for this project was $974,965.00. Instead of remodeling,
Sonic built a new building closer to the interstate with an estimated
cost of $430,000.
Mrs. Winners suddenly shut down in ’09, but the building
wasn’t left vacant long. Forrest Donuts opened in the same
location in late October. Shipley Donuts open a new shop on Washington.
A building permit was purchased in December to begin the renovation
project for Harvest Foods. The building will be the new location
for two businesses, one of which is the Dollar General; the other
business is undetermined at this time.
USDA spent $700,000 to build a new office on the north end of
town. The Horizon Center was reopened as Flash Market and the
Forrest City School District renovated Taylor Casbeer and it is
now the site of the Ombudsman Program. The old Southern Furniture
Building has been remolded and is the new location for A Rare
Find Flea Market and Gift Shop.
Investments are being made in our community. Please take a moment
and join me in thanking these businesses and others who have reinvested
into this community.
It is true, our city has its share of homeless people, we have
unemployed and hungry people, there are people in need in our
mist, but we have many in our area who don’t just pass by
and pretend not to see. We have volunteers whose mission is to
serve those who are less fortune. We are blessed to have wonderful
volunteers who serve in various aspect of our community. Thank
you to the volunteers of the Food Pantry, the CARE Center, Boys
and Girls Club, the St. Francis County Museum, Watch Dog group
at the Junior High School, Watchmen group at the Senior High School,
area churches, and all of you who give of your time and resources
to help your fellow citizen.
As far as our school district is concerned, yes, much has been
written and said about the negatives of our school district, but
again, even in this area there are positives in which to focus.
While the school district is not off of the Academic Improvement
List, there were substantial gains in nearly every area of the
state mandated Benchmark testing, for the spring 2009 testing
Forrest City School District is the only district in Arkansas
to implement the Ombudsman Program for its Alternative Learning
Students. The district has initiated the highly successful B.U.G.
(Bringing up Grades) to recognize students who exhibit academic
growth. And Forrest City Schools was one of the three Delta districts
to receive the Verizon J.A.G (Jobs for Arkansas Graduates) Grant.
Yes, our school district has had its share of problems, but
thanks to the efforts of Superintendent Dr. Jerry Woods and the
many great teachers, the district is making positive strides and
I am happy to claim the Forrest City School District as my Alma
It is true we occasionally have complaints about our city departments,
but I can sit here and confidently proclaim we have great city
departments. Ladies and Gentlemen, our city departments have great
leaders who perform an outstanding job of taking care of our city.
From the Police Department, the fire department, public works,
parks and recreation and animal control to the civic center, code
enforcement, district court, library and the city clerk’s
office, our leaders consistently do an outstanding job performing
their duties. We have some dedicated department heads, men and
women who take their job of providing the best service to our
residents seriously. Overall, city departments work to provide
the quality service our residents have come to expect and I want
to take this moment to thank each one of them for their dedicated
The men and women of the police department are well trained. Under
the leadership of Chief Dwight Duch, the Department invests a
lot of time and effort in training. Using available resources
provided by the Criminal Justice Institute and the Arkansas Association
of Chiefs of Police, the department provided training to many
officers in the department without cost to attend the courses.
Several of these courses were held at our Civic Center which brought
in officers from the entire state.
Four officers within the department received specialized training
to be Police Instructors and two of them completed Firearms Instructor
courses. This added to the training abilities of the department
by having training available in house. The department has also
completed all of the mandatory federal disaster training required
by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that Federal
Disaster Money is available to the community if needed.
New Corporal positions were established; these positions have
helped the patrol division shift have a sound Chain of Command
and allow officers the opportunity to have an apprenticeship for
higher supervisor positions in the department. It also allows
for a supervisor to be present 24/7.
Because of the efforts of our dedicated department. Overall
crime in Forrest City declined in 2009. The Violent Crime Rate
dropped 12.7% in 2009 compared to 2008. That is well above the
national average which is less than 3%.
We had seven reported homicides in 2009 compared to zero in 2008.
Of these seven, I congratulate the department for having five
cleared with the arrest of suspects, one with warrants issued
for a suspect who is in custody in Missouri, and one with warrants
issued for the suspect arrest who is still a fugitive from justice.
Surely, I would like to see a 100% clearance rate, but let me
assure you, this department is working diligently to make that
happen. And you, our citizens, can help in this effort.
The police department initiated a “Most Wanted”
page where citizens can go on-line and see photographs of wanted
persons. Visit this page, and if you see someone who is listed
on the page, call the police department. The department works
best when the community is involved.
Our department heads are always coming up with ways to help
our citizens and our community. Fire Chief, Johnny Ruffin worked
diligently this year to prepare the city for an ISO inspection.
Virtually all U.S. insurers of home and business property use
ISO’s PPC program to assess property policies. The statistical
data on insurance losses demonstrates the relationship between
better fire protection as measured by the PPC program and lower
fire losses. If his effort to reduce Forrest City’s class
rating is successful, it will result in lower insurance rates
In preparation for the inspection, investments were
made to improve our fire protection.
The department received a 2000 gallon tanker from the
Arkansas Forrester Commission through the DOD program.
It was refereed and equipped for a Class A Pumper/Tanker
at a cost of $65,000.
Engines 9, 10, and 11 were equipped as Class A Engines
for Maximum points from ISO.
Ladder 1 is equipped as a Class A Ladder Truck for maximum
points from ISO.
Rescue 1 is equipped as a service or reserve ladder
vehicle and Brush 1 is now equipped as a service truck.
We will receive an additional 334 points for both improvements
that we did not receive in 1996.
We now have computer mapping for Fire Hydrants which
helps the dispatcher locate the plugs and notifies engines
responding where the plugs are and the best one to use.
A Custom 2010 Pumper truck was ordered and delivered.
In addition to upgrading equipment, Fire Chief Ruffin has made
sure fire department employees are well trained. In 2009, fire
department employees received 1064 hours of certified training
and all employees completed the NIMS training to ensure the city
is eligible for federal grants and funding.
Chief Ruffin and his staff are also committed to educating the
public on fire safety. To help with this mission the department
now has a fire safety house. This house is carried to schools
and community functions to educate the children in the community
on fire safety. Additionally, a grant has been submitted to allow
the department to purchase fire detectors. These detectors will
be placed in homes in the community free of charge.
I know we don’t hear much about our recreation and public
works department, but let me assure you these directors are doing
an excellent job for the city. Because of the efforts of park
director, Kenneth Taylor, our city can boast of having well maintained
parks. And of course the multipurpose center always receives kudos
for the excellent way it is run.
Mr. Taylor has made improvements to the Multipurpose and Wellness
Center, blinds have been installed in weight rooms and office
windows, hand sanitizers have been placed throughout building,
four new treadmills and a new stripping machine was purchased
to help make sure the floors remain cleaned. In addition to those
improvements, a member donated a new set of Dead Weights with
stand. This goes to show the level of pride the community has
in the multipurpose center.
And now to the public works department. Mr. Floyd Patton and
his staff deserve a standing ovation. When ice and snow covered
the streets of Forrest City, these dedicated employees came out
late at night and early in the morning to remove the danger. His
staff did not refuse to work; they came out in inclement weather
to make the roads safe for the rest of us.
The goal of this department is always to make the city street
as safe and presentable as possible. Public Works include: street,
solid waste, pest control, and shop. Here are just a few accomplishments
of this department over the last year.
1. The City spent over $200,000 paving and overlaying streets.
2. Pothole patcher was repaired
3. New street signs were put up on highway 0ne
4. Repaired our old chipper and purchased a new one.
5. They have both leaf machines up and running
6. The new city shop addition with 2 new offices, 2 new bathrooms,
and a new break room
7. New gas pumps were installed
8. Purchased a new ditch sprayer for Pest control
9. We also work together with the county on city and county
Public Works employees, if I haven’t told you lately, let
me tell you now – Thank you. I appreciate the work you do
for our city.
As I come to the end my State of the City Address, I must remind
you that my work is not over. Therefore, I will take this opportunity
to announce my candidacy for re- election as mayor of Forrest
City. With your help and vote I can continue to work toward creating
a better Forrest City. I will continue working to reduce crime,
and to develop the highway 1 bypass. I will to continue creating
ways to increase our revenue through job creation. I will also
continue to bridge relationships locally and statewide. And of
course, my goal since day one, that has been to unify leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen we live in a great community. The city
council and I have been good stewards of the city’s finances;
so much so, that we can proudly say our financial situation is
good. Businesses are still opening in Forrest City, many of our
citizens work to uplift our community, and our city departments
are filled with dedicated, hard working employees who show pride
in our city each day they serve you and me in their respective
Let us, as a city, adopt the schools motto, “Expect More.”
Expect more from each other, expect more from ourselves let’s
work together to uplift the community we call home and present
it in a positive light.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve our great city
– Forrest City – Home of the Mustangs – where
we all “Expect More” of ourselves and of each other.
~ Gordon McCoy, Mayor