At the beginning of his term on January 1, 2019 Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson outlined a list of things he hoped to accomplish in his first six months as mayor as well as his mission statement. Today Mayor Jackson presented the progress of those goals during a meeting of the Board of Realtors. Below are each of those goals along the progress Mayor Jackson says has been made.
Safety/Quality of Life:
- Work with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) District Engineer to expedite plans to widen lanes and improve intersections on the Hwy 62-65-412 Corridor.
- Works Director Wade Phillips and I had a very productive meeting with top decision makers at ARDOT headquarters in Little Rock. Over the next two to three years you will see in excess of $10 million spent on the Highway 62-65-412 corridor between Kum & Go on the south and Wal-Mart on the north. These projects will include intersection expansion, signal synchronization and widening of lanes in critical spots.
- Create a plan to improve street lighting and add sidewalks where needed.
- We will be installing around 100 new street lights starting in August at about 20 per week. The construction of new sidewalks in key areas throughout Harrison has already begun.
- Work with community experts to create a plan to reduce illegal drug activity and convert users to productive citizens.
- We have seen tremendous success in my opinion. Our Police Chief Chris Graddy has increased the drug enforcement officer staff and is working with state, federal and other agencies to reduce drug trafficking. We are also working with recovery programs to help recovering addicts.
- Research the feasibility and merits of establishing a Neighborhood Watch program.
- We are now ready to assist interested neighborhoods to establish a Neighborhood Watch program.
- Create a plan to reduce speeding.
- While our officers are not aggressively pursuing speeders, they are committed to enforcing our laws. Traffic tickets written are up 40% this year over last year. I believe this equates to safer streets and highways.
- Enhance outdoor surveillance at City Hall and build an overnight holding cell.
- New surveillance cameras have been installed at City Hall, indoors and outdoors. The construction of a holding facility at our Police Headquarters at City Hall is not feasible.
- Study the issue of panhandling and make recommendations.
- Our City Attorney and attorneys at the Arkansas Municipal League have advised us to wait until current lawsuits at the state level have been concluded before making recommendations to the City Council.
- Work with leaders to create a plan to enhance recreational activities for all ages, including more biking and walking paths, additional senior and youth activities, and a dog park.
- A proposal for a comprehensive Recreational Center will be presented to the City Council this month. Our Parks people are working with the Harrison Kiwanis Club to construct and open a Dog Park before year-end. We have groups looking at other recreational opportunities for Harrison citizens. Quality of life is a key component of making Harrison a place where families want to live. We are committed to aggressively pursuing opportunities to improve quality of life for all ages.
- Join with other Harrison leaders and visit at least three small towns in Arkansas that are experiencing renewed prosperity and find out what they are doing for their citizens.
- We have visited several towns about our size and have gotten some great ideas from their mayors and leaders.
- Visit local industries, learn how to serve them better and encourage them to bring additional jobs to Harrison.
- Along with new Chamber President/CEO Bob Largent and others, we have visited several local industries, from small family-owned to large employers, to find out their needs. We’re working with them as they plan for future development.
- Create and provide leadership and support to an Economic Prosperity Committee to work with the City, County, Chamber of Commerce, Believe Boone County, North Arkansas College, and others to immediately begin attracting businesses and industries to Harrison.
- I believe all the players are working together better than ever to improve our economic prosperity. Also see my comments about workforce training below.
- Work with North Arkansas College and the Boone County Economic Development Commission to enhance workforce training programs and recruit young people to seek technical training that will result in great-paying jobs in Harrison.
- Our workforce team, under the leadership of Craig Campbell and Dave Morton, recently presented a “Workforce Summit” in coordination with the OUR Coop and local industries in which high school counselors and other school leaders learned about great-paying industry opportunities right here in Harrison. I think we will see good things come from this event as our schools promote local opportunities to their students.
- Work with a Downtown Development team to find ways to revitalize Downtown.
- This is a tough but important goal. Five new businesses have opened downtown but we have a long way to go. We’re working with the Historic Harrison Downtown Association and Chamber to recruit new businesses to our historic business district.
- Work with church leaders and other volunteer groups to create a new Friends Helping Friends volunteer program to assist the elderly and others in need by cleaning up yards and providing small home repairs, wheelchair ramps, etc.
- We’ve had some success here but not near what I was hoping for. I will continue to put energy into this.
- Encourage volunteerism and encourage citizens to work together to achieve common goals.
- We’ve seen some nice things happen. For example, more than 30 citizens volunteered recently to label recycling containers across the city. I’ll stay actively involved in promoting Volunteerism.
- Find ways to improve city services to Harrison citizens.
- We’ve made some big gains here. Fire, Police, Public Works and the Water Dept have initiated new programs and policies.
- Conduct feasibility study to determine possible relocation of City Hall.
- We put a lot of energy into the Durand Center idea but we’re still hopeful we will find a new home for city administration and public safety.
- Identify abandoned and unsafe houses and vigorously move toward rehabilitation or removal.
- We have identified six houses; we’ve negotiated a sale/remodel on two and we’re in the process of tearing down the remaining four. Additionally, we have sent letters and issued tickets for bad yards.
- Identify ways to safely improve returns on capital reserves.
- Under the leadership of City Finance Director Luke Feighert we have been able to substantially increase the revenue the city receives on its reserves. This includes both interest on checking and on CD’s, which we have spread between three local banks.
- Provide leadership and accountability for all city departments.
- I can do better, however we have a great leadership team and the best 165 employees a mayor could ask for. Additionally, our City Council members have provided great counsel and have been a pleasure to work with.