Well, our winter of 2016 turned out to be a very mild one. The Road Crew had to spread sand and salt for only a couple of days and we did not have any large snows.
The winter has been not only mild from temperatures but a fairly dry year. Because of mild weather and closeness to the quarry, we have hauled about 19,000 tons more gravel than the same time last year.
The first item to report is YTD figures versus The Plan for 2016.
Annual Plan YTD____
Tons of Gravel 125,000 tons 78,000 tons
Miles of 4” Gravel
Drainage Improvement 46.6 miles 25.0 miles
Asphalt Overlay 4.1 miles
Chip & Seal Overlay 13.2 miles
New Chip & Seal 14.8 miles
Past 5 years and 4 months are:
Tons of Gravel 793,000 tons
Miles of 4” Gravel
Drainage Improvement 254.6 miles
Asphalt Overlay 69.9 miles
Chip & Seal Overlay 57.5 miles
New Chip & Seal Roads 40.0 miles
Total Road Improvement 422.0 miles
We will begin Chip & Sealing the week of June 13.
The Asphalt overlay job is scheduled for June, 2016.
The new Van Buren County Library was open as of March 1. This is an 11,000 square foot library with State-of-the-Art technology. This is a fulfillment of a 67-year old dream but more important a commitment to higher education in our County.
The Van Buren County Library started in 1949 with the establishment of the library in one third of the Legion Hut, later moved to the Old Clinton State Bank Building in 1967 until the great flood of December, 1982. Then in 1983, the Library Board purchased the old Clinton Drug Store building and added to the building in 1993 (approximately 3,000 square feet). This remained as the Van Buren County Library until February, 2016.
A dedication was held on March 29, 2016, with 250-300 in attendance. In the month of April, attendance was up from 4,074 average per month to 6,232 attendance in April, 2016. Also, the Summer Reading Program has a full 2-months (June & July) of different youth activities.
In my closing remarks at the dedication, “Let us use this dedication to be an example of our commitment to promote higher education not only for our generation but for the prosperity of future generations.” I believe this library is a start to promoting higher education.
Also, Damascus has a new City office, Courtroom and Library opening in June, 2016. The library part is about 3 times the size of the present library. The average monthly attendance at the Damascus Library is 360 per month.
Fairfield Bay celebrated their 50th anniversary as a community on April 23, 2016. In 1960, Van Buren County’s population was approximately 7,000 and Clinton’s population was 770. There was no Greers Ferry Lake, no Fairfield Bay and Highway 65 was a 2 lane road.
Today Van Buren County has a population of 17,000, Clinton is 2,600 and Fairfield Bay is around 2,300. There is a beautiful, 40,000 acre lake that helps generate over $60.0 million in tourism dollars and the next few years a four lane (65) from Clinton to Conway.
If we can grow at the same rate in the next 50 years as we did in the past 50 years, Van Buren County’s population would be 40,000, Clinton would be over 6,000 and Fairfield Bay around 5,000.
Some Economic Happenings in the Community
1.Petroleum prices continue to be low. This has been a plus for the County Road Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Solid Waste. If the present trend continues we could see 25% – 30% less in budgeted fuel costs, plus the budget was cut for 2016.
2. 2015 Tourism Dollars were flat when compared to 2014, but up 7.3% versus 2013. The wet spring weather and high lake level was probably the biggest reason for no growth.
Arkansas tourism dollars have grown from 1.0 billion in 1979 to 7.2 billion in 2015.
4. The Labor Department statistics showed the following:
Labor Force Employment Unemployment
January 2015 6375 5825 8.7%
January 2016 6525 6075 7.1%
March 2016 6700 6250 6.8% (preliminary)
5. In talking with Mr. Deaton, Ozark Health Administrator, he felt positive about their financial results for their fiscal year.
6. Some upcoming events are:
Fairfield Bay Summer Water Sport Festival, June 17 – 18 at the Fairfield Bay Marina.
Archey Fork Festival, June 25, Clinton Park.
I hope this article gives you some information on what is going on in Van Buren County. We live in an area where we are blessed with nature’s beautiful resources.
Thanks and God Bless!!