FAYETTEVILLE — Mayor Lioneld Jordan said during his annual state of the city address that the city has continued to meet the needs of residents without interruption despite a now two-year stretch of unprecedented circumstances brought on by Covid-19.
Jordan said at this point, everyone has been affected by the pandemic in some way, whether it’s concerns about staying safe and healthy, adjusting to changes at school, dealing with job losses, finding and retaining employees, seeing sudden price increases or keeping a small business open and profitable.
“As if these issues are not enough to bear, we must also contend with not knowing when – if ever – things will get back to normal,” he said. “That has been a constant source of stress and worry for many of us.”
The city, however, has kept up with essential health and safety needs while also pushing forward with planned improvements, he said.
Jordan said many of those services are used every day by residents without giving them much thought, such as water, sewer, trash collection, streets, sidewalks and building safety. Others – like parks and trails – are more visible and celebrated. And some, he said, are only needed in times of crisis, such as fire and police response, housing support, rental and utility assistance, and access to mental health resources.
Fayetteville last year passed Fort Smith to become the second largest city in Arkansas. Jordan said that kind of growth comes with increased demands on city services.
911 emergency calls for police service increased by about 11% last year, while calls to the Fire Department were up by about 28%, Jordan said. Despite the increase, the Fire Department saved more than $340 million of property in 2020, which is an increase of about 53%.
Fayetteville will open two new fire stations in the coming months, and the new police headquarters facility should be completed in the fall.
The Police Department last year began a new program that pairs a social worker with a police officer trained in crisis intervention, which Jordan said is the first of its kind in the state. The city was recently selected to receive a $250,000 grant from the Department of Justice to expand the program.
Proactive environmental protection remains a goal for Jordan’s administration.
“There is no other city in this state that works as hard as Fayetteville to protect and preserve the environment,” he said. “It’s an important part of who we are as a community, and it remains a clear priority for this administration.”
City operations reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 65% last year, while community-wide reduction was 19%, he said. The city’s solar projects cut energy costs by $500,000, and prevented 30,000 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Up next is a project to end coal-supplied electricity to Fayetteville, and to divert even more waste from going to area landfills.
Jordan said current landfill diversion is at about 19%. He said that number is encouraging, but not enough, which is why growing the city’s food waste compost program will also see improvements this year.
Projects aimed at growing the economy are also on the radar.
Jordan said he’s most excited about the SLS Community that will create vocational, residential and clinical resources for neurodiverse residents and their families.
“I believe this will be one of the most significant economic and community development projects ever to come to Fayetteville,” he said.
Substantial progress has been made on many of the bond issues that voters approved in 2019. The city last year worked on $35 million worth of infrastructure improvements to streets, drainage, parks, trails and city facilities.
Ground was broken this month on a replacement parking deck in downtown Fayetteville, and progress continues on The Ramble as part of the cultural arts corridor project.
Investments at Centennial Park are already paying off, Jordan said. The bike-focused park in south Fayetteville last year hosted a UCI Cyclocross World Cup event, and will have the world’s attention this weekend when it hosts the UCI Cyclocross World Championships.
City of Fayetteville
“Because of the excellent work that’s been done to make Centennial Park an attraction for mountain biking events, thousands of international competitors and spectators will spend time in our community, contribute to our local economy and hopefully plan return visits,” he said.
Development and new construction is up in Fayetteville, Jordan said. Last year saw a major increase in plans, permits and inspections managed through the city’s development services department, including more than 600 new single-family homes, around 80 new townhouses and about 2.7 million square feet of commercial permits.
An economic vitality master plan, focused on economic recovery from the pandemic, job creation, workforce development and housing, small business growth, and equity and inclusion will head to the City Council this year, he said.
Jordan said the plan is to press forward despite the challenges of the pandemic and the added strain of having so many projects happening at the same time.
“Here in Fayetteville, we do not settle for only what is good enough,” he said. “We want the very best for this community.”