Crossett Mayor Crystal Marshall delivered the annual State of the City address at the Feb. 28 Crossett City Council meeting.
During the speech, the major acknowledged that the city had faced adversity but also focused on numerous wins, telling the council that, “We are safe, we are stable, we are thriving.”
“There have been a lot of challenges facing our world in the last few years and we haven’t been unscathed,” she said, noting that the people of Crossett have come through those challenges before saying, “I believe with my whole heart we will continue to do so.
The numerous net-good items that the speech included were the result of a community of people coming together for the good of Crossett, Marshall said.
“All of these wins are everyone’s wins,” she said.
Turning to the city’s financial position, the mayor told the council that sales tax was up approximately 13 percent, while ad valorem tax collections were down approximately 18 percent. Those changes meant that the city’s revenue essentially remained flat, she said, and the city expects it to remain so for the coming year.
“We are looking ahead to shifts in businesses that may be having more of a presence or less of a presence (in the future),” she said, saying the city’s ability to work with the changes has been in part because of streamlining processes it has adopted.
The last two years have have an aggregate of approximately $1.5 million in carryover funds including COVID relief funds, and more COVID relief money is on its way, Marshall said.
In the last year, the city received a $1.46 million wastewater grant for the East Crossett Wastewater Project. The city also received $8,692 from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to identify toxins in the former Municipal Building on Main Street; a $12,439 ADEQ grant to identify asbestos and lead paint in the E.C. Crossett Youth Center; and a $300,000 CDBG grant to repair the Youth Center roof, windows, floors and bathrooms.
The Crossett Municipal Airport likewise received approximately $350,000 for a runway lighting project and fuel system rehabilitation.
All included, that makes a little more than $2.28 million in grants for the last year, and if the late 2020 broadband grant, which was used to install fiber optic cable in the city’s Internet service areas, the total for the last year-and-a-half comes to $4.28 million in grants.
“All of this is at no cost to us,” Marshall said. “I know it is at a cost to us because we all pay taxes, but it is no cost to the city, and it is so important to us, to this team, that we carve out Crossett’s piece of the pie that is being collected at the state and national level.”
In the near future, the city will apply for futher grants to improve the Municipal Building, city tennis courts, City Auditorium, dog pound, Port of Crossett boat slip, add a splash pad at the Crossett City Pool and make the Crossett RV Park ADA compliant, she said.
Infrastructure and City Development
Marshall pointed out that the Main Street paving project, which the city was able to arrange with the state in the last year, is beginning this week. The $2.3 million project will repave Main Street from its intersection with U.S. 82 to Ashley 6 south of the city limits.
The city has also worked to repair municipal parking lots and alleys and keep drains and culverts clear, work that has included 24 drainage projects and 29 sewer projects.
In addition to painting City Hall, the City Auditorium is being revitalized with the help of volunteers, she said.
The former zoo property was also cleaned up, which paved the way for the Yale Camp cabins to be relocated onto the property.
“It is going to take time, but I can definitely envision that being a site venue where people get married, have Boy Scout or Girl Scout meetings, can have family reunions,” Marshall said. “We want it to really have a museum feel and have as much of a historic feel as possible, not only as the Yale camp but also as it transitioned to a Girl Scout camp.”
The mayor also emphasized how the Public Works Department’s litter cleanup team has worked to keep the city clean.
“We really came from behind, but this team really stepped up to the plate,” she said. “Do they love picking up garbage? Probably not, but do they do it without complaining and with pride? Yes.”
The city also notedly has more streetlights working.
“At one point 88 lights were out, and we have that down to a handful that we continuously work with Entergy to resolve,” Marshall said. “A lot of the repairs were extensive, but with light there comes safety, so we are committed to continuing (that improvement).”
At the city sports complex, work was done to ensure that drainage on the fields is appropriate and the fields stay open as much as possible, and at City Park the sidewalks have been upgraded for ADA compliance to make the park accessible.
Keeping with the theme of improving properties, the mayor spoke about about the city code enforcement office’s work demolishing 19 condemned properties and getting nine lots cleaned up.
A total of 25 houses are scheduled for demolition in 2022, with eight lots scheduled and one business property scheduled for cleanup.
Marshall also highlighted economic development work in the area, pointing to Cynergy Cargo’s continued expansion and additional jobs in manufacturing and retail.
She also pointed to AOP’s addition of manufacturing capacity and hiring, and most recently, Primoris’s addition of 80 jobs.
Marshall also spoke about the recent completion of the four-laning of the section of U.S. 82 coming into Crossett.
“I didn’t realize how important four-lane highways were until I started working with economic development,” she said.
The city is also seeing a large number of prospective companies interested in locating, and Crossett Economic Development is actively working with multiple types of industry and has a site visit for a possible recruit scheduled for this week.
“(Economic Development Director) Mike Smith and I hope to have a good announcement for you very soon,” she said.
In addition to the consistent use of the Farmer’s Market for crafters fairs, movies at the City Auditorium, community events and city events such as the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. Marshall said the city plans to host multiple sports tournaments in the coming year.
“We plan to actually earn some revenue for Parks and Recreation this year,” she said, telling the council that, among other things, one of the tournaments will be for special needs ball players.
Other signs of progress the mayor highlighted included, among other things:
-The tennis court fence was painted
-A stage was built at the Farmer’s Market
-A new fence at Wiggins Cabin, which was done in partnership with the Crossett Historical Society
-Substantial clearing of the perimeter of Lucas Pond, and the clearing of alligator grass in the pond
-Repairs to city park playground equipment
-A major vegetation cutback and fence clearing at the Sixth Street Ball Park; more work is planned, including repairing rotted bleachers and dugouts
-Removal of vegetation and a dilapidated structure at Tex Moore field
-City Park bridge repairs, which were done in partnership with local civic organizations and businesses.