State of the City
Feb. 21, 2022 | Osceola, Arkansas
The State of the City of Osceola is strong, innovative and promising. We hear from all over that we are the envy of the region. Our goal is to maintain this momentum and deliver on the good talk. When asked, “how are we doing this?” My first response is that we have a great city with great people. Plus, the City has a great team of staff and volunteers that are pulling together in this progressive direction. Speaking of our volunteers, this is the segue in looking at our highlights from the past year and list ideas that we have for moving forward.
Community outreach: As a result of having active volunteers at our activities and committee meetings, Osceola has been awarded one of the seven Volunteer Communities of the Year 2021. Besides Osceola, the other cities include Vilonia, Fayetteville, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Siloam Springs, and West Memphis. We (Osceola) and Fayetteville are the only repeat winners. That’s pretty good company.
Our Coston Arts building renovation is complete and Osceola is being awarded a Trendsetter Honorable Mention for this project.
Retail: City Hall is working closely with the two investors who have bought 26 vacant downtown buildings and are working to renovate them and revitalize our downtown.
City Hall also stays in contact with our Faith-based community. We have a Pastors’ Conference Call every second and fourth Tuesday evenings of the month. Additionally, the Osceola Police Department hosts a gathering to pray every Friday morning at 7:00 and everyone is invited to attend.
Electric and water: We are in the process of installing our new AMI system, at no cost to the residents, if we can use some of our $1.26 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. Currently, we have installed 230 water meters and 85 electric meters. Stacey Travis and our customer service team built and maintain a close relationship with EOC and have been able to assist our utility customers with obtaining almost $27,000 in LiHEAP funds to pay toward their electric bills, plus over $9,000 in rent relief assistance.
Sewer: We have been awarded a $2.8 million EDA-Economic Adjustment Assistance grant to expand our sewer line to the steel industry campus. We will begin on that construction later this year and it promises to also relieve our residential sewer lines
Streets: In partnership with Music Heritage Tourism Initiative and Mississippi County, we have won a $300,000 street scape grant. We also began our “pothole blitz” a few months ago, with an employee dedicated to cold and hot patching pot holes across town.
Storm draining – To relieve flooding in the Jacksonville area, we replaced and lowered the storm pipe at Scott’s Sheet Metal by 8 inches. We have developed a good relationship with the Drainage District. They have already repaired the drainpipe on Parkway. And last week, we began the replacement of the storm pipe at golf course
Fire – Fire Department Chief Peter Hill worked hard to improve our ISO rating from a 3 to a 2. This will result in huge savings in insurance premiums for our residents and businesses. In more volunteer news, for their Day of Service to our community, KWest General Contractors reconstructed the northside driveway at Fire Station #1. The Osceola Fire Department is also partnering with the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Department’s central dispatch to locate all of our hydrants via GPS. Additionally, all of our firemen are certified as 1st Responder trainers. Finally, Chief Hill and his staff have submitted a $148,000 Assistant to Firefighters Grant.
Police and District Court – Osceola Police Department has improved our medical response by training our officers in the use of Naloxome for opiate overdoses and in trauma care and treatment. The OPD is happy to note that the use of Sky Cops has made the streets safer, because they help deter and solve many crimes. Additionally, Osceola had no homicides in 2021. Currently, the OPD is working toward an accreditation by the Arkansas Council of Police Chiefs. Another successful activity was the expungement and record sealing clinic on Jan. 15, sponsored by District Court, prosecutors, OPD, the Sheriff and Osceola School District. The clinic assisted over 100 people, and helped seal 33 felony convictions and 15 misdemeanor issues.
Personnel - City of Osceola Human Resources announced that there were no lost time accidents within the City for 2021.
At the Airport in January, we completed a $469,000 runway rehabilitation and replaced all of the runway lights. And in November, we completed the $78,000 resurfacing of the airport’s apron. This year, we look forward applying for as much as $400,000 for a new hangar. The annual FAA allocation to the Osceola airport will increase from $150,000 by $260,000 for the upcoming year due to H.R. 3684 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This is anticipated to renew annually for the next 10 years.
Last summer at the Riverport, the Corps of Engineers spent $487,000 to dredge our Osceola Harbor. We worked with the Corps to obtain more funds for dredging this summer and they just announced to us that this summer, the Corps will spend $1,025,000 in Osceola Harbor dredging, also part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
OPAR continues with very successful youth sports program. And we were pleased to dedicate the center and LED display sign in Mayor Dickie Kennemore’s memory.
As far as the appearance of Town, the city appreciates the Arbor Day tree plantings sponsored by Big River Steel’s Environmental Department, especially Environmental Manager and Osceola resident Michele Vachon.
Code Enforcement will begin demolishing substandard houses in early March. With our new partnership with Judge Dean and District Court, we are starting to get community service help in cleaning up around town.
Census: The Census shows that we have gained in population over the last three years. In 2019 Census had our population at 6,638. Our new census count shows Osceola growing in population by nearly 350 residents, or 6,976.
And we did all of this good work in spite of the February snow storm and the COVID Pandemic. Keep in mind that because of the natural gas prices during the February snow storm the city had to pay an additional $850,000 to our electricity provider, which the city absorbed without passing the cost on to our customers. On the positive side, all of our departments worked hard during the blizzard and kept our services going, including electric, water, sewer, streets and sanitation.
Regarding the Pandemic, we have done a lot to counter the virus’ spread. We hosted four vaccination clinics in City Hall. The City received a $25,000 AR Community Foundation grant that we used to provide, free of charge, COVID disinfectant spraying for local retails businesses and churches. We also applied and received $307,000 in CARES Act funding that we used to cover some of our expenses caused by the Pandemic.
Industrial: We are selling the Fruit of the Loom building to a new industry that will have a big announcement later this week. We acquired the Phillips Construction building and are currently utilizing it for Street Department functions. Last, with much excitement, US Steel broke ground on its massive $3 billion expansion that will create 900 new high-paying jobs.
Despite the progress on the jobs front, we know that the city will not benefit nearly as much as it should if we don’t step up and take advantage. On the horizon, we will start a new interactive webpage, continue talks with a potential new grocery store, and a hotel developer. At City Hall, we have welcomed four housing developers and contractors. They are considering building an upscale apartment complex as well as new housing subdivisions utilizing the county’s “Work Here, Live Here” incentive program. As you know, that incentive will pay 10% of the price of a new home as long as the single-family home ranges in value from $200,000 to at least $500,000.
I will attend education sessions in Washington DC next month to learn about applying for federal infrastructure grants. We will be looking for grants that could fund the following projects:
a) Fire Department - Firefighting boat for the port authority, a 100-foot ladder truck for the fire department, upgrade in water lines to our fire hydrants,
b) Infrastructure – $7 million for an additional water plant, replacing aging residential sewer lines, sewer line extension, $750,000 for retail sewer line extension, utility expansion for the new housing subdivisions, and a flood retention pond.
c) Transportation – $1.3 million to upgrade the intersection at Walgreens, funds for widening Highway 61 south to the steel industry campus, repair much of city’s 26 miles of streets, public transportation system using electric vehicles, sidewalk extension and repairs, bike trails, riverport upgrade and airport upgrade
d) Daycare – Help establish a daycare, particularly for third shift employees.
e) Animal Shelter upgrade
f) Improve broadband speeds for residents and businesses.
g) Housing – Assist with the demolition of substandard housing.
h) Recycling – Establish a full recycling program.
Thank you for all of the good work that you are doing. Great things are ahead for Osceola.
Mayor Sally Longo Wilson