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County Judge’s Report January, 2014

Well 2013 is history and 2014 is off to a cold start. I hope your 2014 will be prosperous and joyful.

The County Road Department was busy in 2013. In last year’s wrap-up for 2012, I mentioned that for the first time in five (5) years Van Buren County did not have a declared federal or state disaster.

Well in 2013 we had three (3) state declared disasters which two (2) of them were also declared federal disasters. The road department spent a total of eight (8) weeks working on these disasters. County Road Department total amount of expenses for these three (3) disasters $640,000.00 estimatetotal reimbursement from Federal and State $340,000.00 leaving total estimate cost for the County to be $300,000. Below are the totals for calendar year 2013 and totals from 2011-2013.

Item                         2013 Total                       2011-2013 Total
Tons of Gravel         143,750 tons                     472,042 tons
4” + gravel/drainage
Improvement 38.3 miles 161.3 miles
Asphalt Overlay 4.0 miles 43.2 miles
Chip & Seal overlay 5.0 miles 46.0 miles
New 2X chip & Seal overlay 12.0 miles 12.0 miles
Total feet of culvert installed 5,300 15,985

Some other items were:
1.) A grant 80% federal, 18% state, and 2% county was received and contract awarded to replace a bridge across Linn Creek Rd. in the north part of the county. This will connect Highway 110 and Highway 65N. Construction will start in March or April of this year.
2.) In the past three (3) years the County Road Department has repaired or replaced a total of fifteen (15) bridges. Plans for 2014 are additional 3-4 bridges. Van Buren County has a total of 78 bridges and low water crossings.
3.) County Roads traded a 2003 Cat 140H grader with approximately 10,000 hours for a 2011 John Deere 672G with approximately 500 hours.
4.) County Road Department also purchased a 2009 Lee-boy paving machine. This was used on two asphalting jobs in 2013 and will use further in 2014.
5.) Van Buren County has approximately 1300 miles of roads. Asphalt roads are 104 miles, Chip & Seal are 60 miles and the rest are gravel.
6.) In the last (3) years the gas companies have given the county $3.5 million for repairs to roads.
7.) Expenditure budget for county road last (5) years:
2009 – $2.843 million
2010 – $3.276 million
2011 – $5.513 million
2012 – $4.489 million
2013 – $3.953 million This doesn’t include and grants.
8.) County Road Department plans for 2014 call for: 4”+ gravel/drainage improvement on 50.0 miles Chip & seal overlay 4.0 miles Double chip & seal (New)16.0 miles Asphalt overlay 3.0 miles
These plans are contingent on no natural disaster accruing. On the Economic front, economy seems to be making slow but steady improvement.
1.) Global Foods is now in construction renovation of the old Volex Building behind Clinton’s Wal-Mart. This plant will be a food processing facility with a 38,000 sq. ft. freezer. Projected production start-up in April. Production will start gradually with a projected employment of 220 in five (5) years.
2.) Natural Gas new wells increased by 11% in 2013. Number of wells increased from 1353 to 1506. Just this week the county got permits for an additional 15 wells.
3.) Ozark Health continues to have more patients in the area of chemotherapy, this relief local resident from making a round trip to Conway or Little Rock. A new Medical Office Building will begin construction in 2014.
4.) Archey Fork Phase I rehabilitation is complete. Phase II will start later in 2014.
5.) Tourism was up according to most people involved in the business. Numbers from the state will be published in March. I believe that the amount of private and public festivals in our communities add to our tourism. I counted (15) annual events in Van Buren County in less than five minutes. The Conference Center in Fairfield Bay was renovated and started operation in late 2013. This was made possible by volunteer’s efforts, local donations, and a federal & state grant.
As of writing this article they have 30 events firmly schedule and are in the process of an addition 40 more. Tourism dollars generated for Van Buren County were $55 million that generates about 550 jobs and $9.0 million in payroll.
6.) Next is the (4) lane Highway project thru Van Buren County from Damascus to Dennard. This will take place in (4) stages: A.) Present widing of Highway 65 in Clinton and Bridge replacement over Archey Fork. B.) Start construction in 2014 on section from Damascus to Bee Branch. C.) In 2016, section from Bee Branch to (4) lane south of Clinton. D.) In 2017, the section from Clinton to Dennard.
7.) Existing Home Sales for Van Buren County were up 10% in 2013 over 2012.
8.) Most Disappointing economic factor to me was that Van Buren County unemployment is running between 8 to 9%. Before the 2008 downturn it was running between 5 to 6%, but topped out at around 12% in 2010.
Some highlight in County Government for 2014:
1.) In 2013, local public officials working with our Van Buren County state representatives received approximately $400,000 in General Improvement Funding.
2.) Solid Waste received (2) grants in 2013 for E-Waste Storage and a recycling trailer that will go to different communities. Amount of grant was around $23,148. Recycling tonnage for 2013 was 430 tons and over 3000 tires were recycled. Revenue received from the recycling operation helps with the cost of solid waste operations. In (4) years, there have been no cost increases for tipping fees and I don’t foresee any increase in 2014.
3.) County General expenditures for the last (4) years have held at the $5.5 million range. Both County General and County Roads were within Budget amounts for 2013.
4.) In May 2013, a new animal control ordinance was passed. Since that time a total of 408 animals have been received. This would equate to 600 animals on an annualized basis. This is down from 700 the previous year.
5.) Office of Emergency Management in 2013 added an accountability and credentialing system and a mobile command unit. The accountability and credentialing system will be used to help identify first responders and volunteers who work following a disaster. This will be very helpful in being able to have a data base to track FEMA cost codes. A Homeland Security Grant paid for the system.
The mobile command unit is to enable the Sheriff’s Office, Fire Departments, Rescue Squad, and Public works to have communications during a disaster in different areas of the county. A local community Grant was received from the United Methodist Women to pay for the mobile unit.

I hope this gives you helpful information about Van Buren County government operations. I believe that our County’s future is bright and I am optimistic that we will continue to see many improvements in 2014.

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