There is a new day a dawning for Jacksonville, according to Mayor Gary Fletcher.
Fletcher’s words came out during his State of the City Address to the City Council in January. The mayor said he is positive about Jacksonville’s future.
"As we start 2014 but as we face the future, we also need to reflect on the past as the ground work to bring about this promising future," said Fletcher. "Like any year in review, they all have their ‘ups and downs’ and 2013 started off with ups beginning with the completion of the Jacksonville Public Safety Building that houses three city departments and brings them into the 21st Century with state of the art facilities and equipment."
The lion’s share of the 40,000 square foot building houses the Jacksonville Police Department.
"With much thought and planning with spacious layouts of every phase of the PD operations there brings about a more organized system and even carries over into a higher degree of professionalism due to the pride each member has in being a member of the Jacksonville Police Department," said Fletcher. "Also housed in the Public Safety building are the training offices of the police and fire departments. Training officers maintain records and training classrooms in addition to the recently opened grounds for both departments."
There are three medium sized classrooms equipped with state of the art technology and a large gathering room/classroom that is actually a concrete and steel re-enforced Safe Room that is open to the public in the event of a tornado warning.
"This facility is used on a regular basis for Federal, State and Local Emergency Service Organizations. It also opens the door for additional training for our training personnel that normally would have to go elsewhere including out of state at a greater cost to our city, not to mention the revenue that is spent at local businesses due to attendees eating here as well as lodging," said the mayor. "No one can appreciate the new 911 Communications located there unless they had seen the old facility. It too, is protected with its own safe room construction and houses new state of the art 4G/LTE digital radio system. This system allows for statewide communications through the AWIN Network. AWIN and the State of Arkansas maintain the transmitter site, saving the city of Jacksonville $65,000-$100,000 annually. The workstations include large wall-mounted screens to help monitor all emergency activity at a glance and maintain a fluid operations at all times."
The city advanced in other areas during 2013, according to Fletcher early in 2013, paperwork was completed and signed between the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the City of Jacksonville to build the largest trap/skeet shooting facility in the State. Shortly thereafter, groundwork began in spite of a wet spring to build the $3.5 million facility that will draw shooters from all across the south as it is expected to host state and regional tournaments thus boosting the local economy especially in the hotel/restaurant business. The site covers 160 acres with 14 trap stations, three skeet ranges, 5,000 square foot Administration Building, two pavilions with restroom facilities and a 3D archery course that will be constructed sometime this spring.
Fletcher pointed out the Arkansas State Legislature met in its scheduled legislative session and passed many bills; however, one of special interest to the city deals with the local option of wet/dry.
"It has the potential to level the playing field and make it easier to attract nice family restaurants on the national chain level," Fletcher said. "It is costing our city when our citizens go to another city to eat by using our local money to support another city’s tax base. That money needs to stay in our own hometown, financing city services and projects. I have maintained all along that no city has the potential Jacksonville has, yet our hands are tied to do anything about it."
The new legislation allows cities that contain the former townships to be able to get on the ballot the initiative to go wet through a petition process requiring signatures of 38 percent of the registered voters. "The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is heading up the signature drive and as of today (in January) have 1,471 of the 4,839 signatures needed. A big door-to-door effort is underway to gather the remaining signatures."
In 2013, the city also saw the retirement of long time Fire Chief John Vanderhoof who served Jacksonville for 40 years.
"His goals and dreams as he lead the Jacksonville Fire Department were accomplished before he left, topped with the ISO fire rating moving from a three to a two, which is a major feat," Fletcher said. "Filling those shoes we knew would be a difficult task, and after a thorough search, it turned out that the person that excited us was right here among us."
The search process brought Jacksonville applicants from several states and with different backgrounds and views but Alan Laughy set himself apart very quickly in the interview process with his energy, frankness, vision, and preparation to carry out that vision along with his qualifications and training, said Fletcher.
"Chief Laughy left a job very near to his heart as assistant chief at the Little Rock Air Force Base Fire Department to accept this new challenge in his fire career. Welcome Chief Laughy as he leads the ‘Pride of Jacksonville’."