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State of city sound despite pandemic, Fayetteville mayor says

Discussions on racial injustice and millions of dollars in bond projects marked a challenging year, he said. by Stacy Ryburn | January 27, 2021 at 7:19 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK City of Fayetteville city hall Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in downtown Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The past year challenged Mayor Lioneld Jordan unlike any other during his time in office, he said Tuesday during his annual state of the city address.

The global covid-19 pandemic heavily affected residents, turning lives upside down and putting strain on businesses, Jordan said. Residents also debated sensitive topics dealing with racial injustice amid an upswell of social unrest across the country, he said.

All the while, the city spent or got under contract about $41 million in the first phase of voter-approved bond projects spanning transportation, public safety, trails, economic development and the planned arts corridor downtown, Jordan said.

"The events of 2020 would be enough to do serious and lasting damage to a community," he said. "But, I believe this past year has shown that Fayetteville is stronger and more resilient than ever before."

Jordan gave the address during the City Council's agenda session, which was held online on Zoom.

City services went uninterrupted despite the pandemic, Jordan said. The city also implemented a mask mandate, reduced capacities at bars and restaurants and online public meetings before such orders came from the state early in the pandemic's onset, he said.

The city's Board of Health was reinstated with a public health officer brought on to guide administrators on decision-making, Jordan said. So far, more than 180,000 free masks have been given to residents and businesses, he said.

City staff helped 160 households avoid shutoffs or eviction through the Community Development Block Grant rental and bill assistance program, Jordan said. An organized encampment called Safe Camp on city land on the south side of town has helped people experiencing homelessness have basic needs met while seeking housing and employment, he said.

"I believe these early and proactive steps helped protect Fayetteville from the high caseloads, community spread and hospitalizations seen in other areas of the country," Jordan said.

Jordan praised residents who participated in a demonstration at the downtown square following the death of George Floyd. The community served as a model for peaceful, safe and cooperative demonstrations of free speech while some other cities erupted in violence, he said.

"All of us have had to confront uncomfortable truths about the historical mistreatment of African Americans and the inequalities experienced by all people of color across this country," Jordan said.

The city started more than 45 projects associated with the bond referendum voters approved in 2019. Jordan listed a few of those projects, including the completion of the so-called "Mayor's Box" around the city, with the final link made on Rupple Road. Zion Road improvements should finish by 2022. The Midtown Corridor will link a trail and road improvements stretching from Interstate 49 east to College Avenue.

Synthetic turf on four baseball fields and a new soft-surface trail was installed at Kessler Mountain Regional Park, Jordan said. The next phase for the park includes a new baseball complex and additional parking, he said.

Soft trails also were built at Centennial Park, with amenities in the works to prepare for the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Championship, Jordan said.

Ground broke in September on the Fay Jones woods portion of the cultural arts corridor project downtown. That work, plus associated road and travel improvements, should finish by the end of the year, Jordan said. He said he hopes to soon bring a contract to purchase land northwest of Dickson Street and West Avenue for a new parking deck to replace spaces once the parking lot next to the Walton Arts Center becomes a civic green space. Once that happens, construction should start in the spring, he said.

A new police headquarters will address deficiencies in space and safety for the department at the current station downtown, Jordan said.

Investment in the bond projects and good money management will contribute to a strong, healthy and stable economy, Jordan said.

The state of the city is sound, Jordan said.

"The past year has been incredibly challenging for all of us," he said. "We're not through this pandemic yet, but I hope, and I believe, that better days are ahead."

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To read the full text of Mayor Lioneld Jordan’s state of the city address, go to:

http://bit.ly/faysotc

Stacy Ryburn can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @stacyryburn.

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