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Bentonville City Council OKs calling for bond election

Mayor also gives state of the city address by Mike Jones | February 10, 2021 at 7:48 a.m.
FILE PHOTO The Bentonville City Hall building.

BENTONVILLE -- The City Council on Tuesday night voted to set a bond election for capital projects.

The special election will be April 13. Residents will be asked to approve up to $266 million in bonds by extending a 1% city sales tax.

Capital projects voters will be asked to approve include $160 million for streets, $30 million for parks and recreation, $18 million to address drainage issues, $6 million for radio communications, $4.5 million for library expansion, $3.5 million for a fire training facility and $1.4 million for a police training facility, according to the city.

Eighty percent of the revenue raised by the city's 1% city sales tax goes to repay bonds and 20% goes to ongoing capital needs. The city would maintain the same ratio if the sales tax is extended, according to Jake Harper, city director of finance and administration.

The city would use part of the $266 million in new bonds to refinance about $23 million in current bonds. Refinancing the debt allows the city to issue the new bonds using the 1% sales tax, Harper said.

City voters in 2007 passed a $117.9 million bond issue. The city issued four series related to that bond issue in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2017, Harper said. The debt is from the last three series, he said.

The 1% sales tax would expire in 2046. The tax brings in about $15 million a year.

The ballot would include nine questions for voters -- one question to authorize the sales tax extension, one to authorize the bond refunding and seven for individual projects.

A city website dedicated to the bond issue will go live today. Information can be found at www.BentonvilleBond.com .

Mayor Stephanie Orman gave her state of the city address at the end of the meeting.

Orman said city staff faced many challenges in 2020. "Adjusting to a pandemic was and continues to be challenging, but our employees have gone above and beyond. Most notable, we created and executed a pandemic plan," she said.

Orman mentioned the launch of Bentonville Together with listen, learn and lead steps to help make the city more welcoming and bring a greater awareness of mutual respect among our staff and community members.

Bentonville also continues to be recognized as a top destination for regional, national and worldwide travelers, Orman said.

"Bentonville has become the cultural hot spot in the heartland," she said. "We are very appreciative of private entities that have invested in our city and offer such amazing amenities as the world-renowned Crystal Bridges Museum, Museum of Native American History, newly opened in 2020 contemporary art space in The Momentary, the Scott Family Amazeum children's museum and, of course, the Walmart Museum. We are also thankful for the city's partnership with Visit Bentonville in promoting our city."

Bentonville's 2020 sales tax receipts increased 9.3% compared to 2019 collection, she said. The city's 1-cent sales tax eclipsed $16 million for the first time in 2020, Orman said.

A main focus for the city's transportation team in 2020 was the revision of the Street Plan passed by City Council on Jan. 12, Orman said. The Transportation Department completed the widening of Southwest I Street last year, according to Orman's speech.

The Street Department repaired over 300 street cuts, cleaned 2 miles of drainage ditches, completed 2.6 miles of street crack sealing, added two new traffic signals and one set of pedestrian crosswalk signals. The Street Department also maintains 600 traffic lane miles of roads, 200 miles of sidewalks, 77 miles of open ditches and 123 miles of enclosed storm drains throughout the city, Orman said.

The Police Department dispatch center in 2020 received 69,239 dispatch calls for police service and handled 76,464 calls with police and fire service calls combined. The Police Department initiated and implemented a body worn camera program and policy.

"Overall, 2020 was consistent with previous years as there were no trends in criminal activity that should be cause for concern or impact the very safe community in which we live," Orman said.

There were 12,698 Fire Department service calls -- a 5% increase over 2019, Orman said.

The Building and Fire Safety Division saw a 2.6% increase in building permits, an 11% increase in permit fees and a 14% increase in permit value at over $529 million, Orman said.

The city Legal Department handled 2,733 new criminal and traffic cases in District Court in 2020, Orman said.

The covid-19 pandemic brought more people outdoors in 2020. The city trail system saw a 73% increase in users over the course of the year, which resulted in more than 3.5 million people walking, running or cycling on a public trail in 2020, according to the address.

In 2020, the library responded to the covid-19 pandemic in various ways to protect staff and patrons. The library closed to the public March 16 and essential staff worked from home and onsite as conditions allowed during the closing. Librarians developed and implemented a plan for phased services with specific protocols for staff workflows and patron use. On June 9, the library opened to the public in a phased capacity with established protocols, Orman said.

The Planning Department processed 365 projects, up 46% from 250 in 2019 -- the highest number of items coming through the department in 10 years, Orman said.

City staff use certificate of occupancy data to estimate the population. Bentonville's population estimate is 54,819 residents, an increase of 3.7% from 2019, Orman said.

"We, all of us together, are a city of hope, compassion, innovation and opportunity because of all of you who make a difference in a truly wonderful city we are fortunate to call our home," Orman said.

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Other action

The Bentonville City Council on Tuesday night also:

Repealed ordinance No. 2003-119 establishing a Criminal Nuisance Abatement Board. The board hasn’t met in several years, and issues are being resolved through District Court.

Approved buying equipment for 14 budgeted Police Department vehicles. The vehicles will be provided by Superior Fleet and Commercial Sales in Siloam Springs.

Declared 17 no longer in-service Police Department vehicles as surplus.

Purchased a replacement pump from Jack Tyler Manufacturing for the McKissic lift station.

Approved an agreement with the Centerton Waterworks and Sewer Commission. The agreement will allow certain subdivisions within Bentonville, but in Centerton’s water service area, to receive service from Centerton without requiring additional easements on the properties.

Approved an agreement with Carroll Electric Co-op to purchase its infrastructure and accounts on Morningstar Road for $317,917.

Approved a $466,500 contract amendment with Ecological Design Group to include the street design of Southwest Bright Road to Southwest 28th Street as part of the 28th Street Park project.

Source: Bentonville

Mike Jones may be reached by email at [email protected]

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