State of the City
February 8, 2022
It is my honor and pleasure to serve as your Mayor and I'm excited to share the State of Bentonville with you this evening. As a note, this presentation is required by Arkansas code to be given by the Mayors of first-class cities to City Council within the first 90 days each year.
I would like to start by asking you to join me in a moment of silence to recognize all those that have been affected by the pandemic and those that have faithfully served our Nation and our City despite unique and new challenges over the past year. (Thank You)
As a City, many of the challenges of 2020 followed us into 2021 and new challenges with supply chain, inflation, and workforce became more apparent. However, we were better prepared and we made conscious decisions to learn, make efficiency improvements where needed, and continue to serve the Community to the very best of our ability every day. In tonight’s State of the City you will hear measurable results to show you how we have persisted in moving Bentonville forward. You will also hear some honest challenges we continue work through. I am extremely proud of our City team and everything they have done to keep our City safe, while setting aggressive goals and success paths to see us forward. I also want to start by recognizing our City Council, Utility Board, Planning Commission, and our numerous volunteers who serve on a variety of boards and committees across the City. Your desire to serve the City and work toward solutions and better results is greatly appreciated. And, thank you to this Community. Your endless support is a true blessing that showcases collaboration and unity to see our City be the very best it can be and create opportunity for all. Last year, I mentioned we were compelled to lead with a sense of compassion, flexibility, and a commitment to serve the public through any circumstance. That direction and drive continued to be followed in 2021. As I present this evening, we find ourselves hopeful with the start of a new year, strong economic activity and recovery in the City, and an overwhelming sense of community and perseverance that continues to demonstrate the “can do” attitude that defines our City. I can confidently say to you tonight the State of the City of Bentonville continues to be strong and we as a community rise to any occasion with compassion and resiliency.
I am truly humbled by our City work force and tonight I want to personally thank each of them for everything they have done to make sure the day-to-day services of the City continues with little to no interruption…all while growing at an unprecedented rate and with new and challenging circumstances. You have adjusted to a pandemic and found ways to continue to manage an ever increasing work load. You have taken on hard decisions and embraced change and technology as the City strives to be as efficient and effective as possible in every department. You have continued to adapt and transition work meetings and work flow when needed. You continued to seek public engagement, listen, and implement new ideas when possible. You have developed measurable goals and continued to provide municipal services in a professional, personal, and responsive manner. And tonight, I am excited to share many of your accomplishments…so let’s get started!
In April, the public passed a bond extension that will help the City keep up with growth, needed infrastructure, public safety, and efficiency improvements without a tax increase. Bonds are a great way for financially strong cities such as Bentonville to get the money needed for important improvements by using existing tax revenue instead of increasing taxes. We are grateful for the trust of the public to pursue these projects. We encourage the public to follow the progress at Bentonvillebond.com.
The City came together to assist the community by encouraging healthy lifestyles and exercise on our numerous outdoor trails and amenities with trail usage for the year estimated at over 3.5 million!
Our Fire Department along with help from community partners and assisting departments organized efficient drive-thru vaccine clinics and drive-thru test kit distribution points the public overwhelming responded to.
Our Bentonville Together initiative encouraged community conversations that have lead us to more understanding and collaboration as we continue to be proactive in welcoming people to our area and making sure they feel included and a part of our City. One of the most exciting upcoming events from these conversations will be a Multicultural Festival scheduled for April 23, 2022. I encourage everyone to attend this new event for the City and lets all help it become an annual event we can all look forward to.
At this time in 2020, I announced the Spirit of Bentonville award for citizens. This award honors Bentonville residents, like many of you, who serve to advance the Bentonville Community by embodying our City’s welcoming culture, goals, and overarching dedication to enriching the lives of all those who live, work, and play in Bentonville. In 2021, we honored 5 community members and 6 community organizations with this recognition during our monthly virtual coffees. Please join me in congratulating Wylene Cohagan, Valerie Gust, Ann Morrison, Liberty DeSilva, Reyan Patel, For the Love Food Truck, True Colors Farm, Bentonville’s Tree and Landscape Committee, Pedal-it Forward, Benton County Master Gardeners and Helping Hands for giving selflessly of themselves and their organizations to the Bentonville community and for making a positive difference during these very challenging days. I certainly encourage everyone to read these nominations if you want to be inspired. Tonight, I am honored to recognize 2 more individuals with the Spirit of Bentonville Award…..Melanie Hoskins and Brenda Anderson. Melanie has been an inspiration with her work on the upcoming Multicultural Festival. She has personally inspired me from the beginning when she passionately described her aspiration to bring the Community together through this new celebration and took action to make it come to fruition. She has worked tirelessly, outside of a full time job, making sure all feel welcomed in our Community and a part of this new event. Her presence and always cheerful attitude will make you want to smile and come together! Thank you Melanie! We are so glad you are a part of Bentonville Together. Tonight, we also recognize Brenda Anderson. If you know Brenda, you know her desire to collaborate and move Bentonville forward. One of the numerous nominations we received for Brenda said this “Brenda has helped grow the positive spirit of the Bentonville area more than anyone I have met. Her influence and professional attitude motivates everyone around her to do the right thing in even in the most difficult circumstances”. Thank you Brenda for all you do for our City and those around you.
I know there are lots of individuals in our Community going above and beyond each day to make our City better. Please consider taking the time to recognize and nominate an individual or group whose contributions you feel make Bentonville a better place by filling out a Spirit of Bentonville nomination form that can be found on the City of Bentonville website. These quiet heroes we know are sprinkled throughout the City of Bentonville and they make a difference in our Community. They often perform deeds silently, without fanfare, and without the expectation of reward or honor… teachers, business owners, mothers, fathers, soldiers, adolescents, teenagers, athletes, healthcare workers, community leaders, mentors, volunteers…the list is endless and we look forward to honoring many more Spirit of Bentonville Award Winners who go above and beyond to give back and serve our Community in 2022.
We continued to recognize City Employees with the Spirit of Bentonville Employee Award after hearing from community members about these employees going above and beyond and making the residents’ lives better as a result of coming in contact with our team. Those employees were: Nick Brown in our Police Department, Evan Blalock and Josh Davis in our Fire Department, Brad Conley and Rob Kintz in our Transportation Department, Debbie Griffin in our Administration Department, Mark Malugen in our Public Works Maintenance Department, Bobby Hinton and Jorge Chavez in our Parks and Recreation Department, Duane Miller in our Building and Fire Safety Department, Marc Scott, James Bise, Zach Patton, Dylan Kirkendoll, and Jake McKirch from our Street Department and our entire Fire Department for their efforts during the drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Please join me in congratulating all of these recipients and all of our employees who work daily to serve our community. The letters we received from the public asking to recognize these employees will warm your heart and are a great demonstration of the pride each take in serving the public. I know first hand how every City employee works hard to provide a high quality of life and exceptional customer service for all, but getting a hand written letter or personal email about employees going above and beyond always makes a day in Bentonville better. I again look forward to receiving more employee nominations and recognizing many more City employees in 2022.
Twelve students participated in the 2021 Mayor’s Youth Council and certificates of completion were presented at the December 14, 2021 City Council meeting. The purpose of this group is to provide a conduit for youth to voice to city leadership, help promote civic engagement, foster an understanding of how municipal government works, and hear and offer solutions to real-world city issues. With much success, we have expanded the program to include 14 students for the 2022 Mayor’s Youth Council.
The Mayor’s Community Council began in 2020. This group is designed to bring the community together to discuss and work toward building a closer and more connected City. A strong community celebrates mutual respect, integrity, diversity, and fairness. Sixteen Bentonville residents participated and completed the 2021 class and were recognized with certificates of completion at the December 14, 2021 City Council meeting. We have 16 individuals that are participating in this program in 2022. Some of the participants that have completed this program have been appointed to serve on various Board and Commissions within the City, and are continuing to serve the Bentonville community in other capacities.
Bentonville continues to be recognized as a top destination for regional, national and worldwide travelers. From our vibrant downtown square and what we affectionately refer to as the “Best Trailhead in America”, to numerous historical areas, world-class museums, expansive recreational facilities and programs and diverse culinary options many are visiting our City and many of those visitors are deciding Bentonville is a great place to call home.
The declaration last year of Bentonville as the “The Mountain Biking Capital of the World” continues to attract biking enthusiasts across the country and the world to enjoy award-winning trails throughout all four seasons of the year. All reports indicate that both pedestrian and bike trail usage for 2021 was impressive, with over 3.5 million users on the trail system. Bentonville continues to be a cultural hot spot in the Heartland. Crystal Bridges Museum recently announced expansion plans to add 100,000 square feet by 2024 basically doubling in size with additional galleries, educational facilities and unique indoor and outdoor gathering spaces. Bentonville, also home to the Museum of Native American History, contemporary art space The Momentary, the Scott Family Amazeum children’s museum and, of course, the Walmart Museum continues to see investment in new exhibits, festivals, and expansions that help confirm the signs of a strong and growing Community and quality of life in many outdoor and cultural experiences.
We are also thankful for the City’s partnership with Visit Bentonville and the great job they do promoting and bringing visitors to our City. We are mindful that our hotels and restaurants continue to be challenged to get back to pre-pandemic numbers. However, stats provided by Visit Bentonville are extremely encouraging and we continue to support these outlets and growing success throughout all our business community.
Under the scope of another City partner, Downtown Bentonville, Inc., the ever-popular Saturday Farmer’s Market won a National Award for Best Farmer’s Market and topped $1 Million in sales. First Fridays returned and input from the Community revealed the first…“Our Bentonville” themed First Friday as the Community was invited to celebrate everything to love about Bentonville. The City’s partnership with Downtown Bentonville on the Lighting of the Square and Christmas Parade were welcomed with great attendance and appreciation and the parade was televised for all to enjoy for the first time.
The pandemic slowed many things, but it could not slow the growth in Bentonville. The U.S. Census Bureau 2020 numbers were released with Bentonville’s population at 54,126, up 53.4% from 2010. The City continues to see announcements of investment in new housing and businesses driven by an inspiring entrepreneurial spirit, economic resilience, focus on high quality of life and healthy lifestyles, public safety initiatives, innovative and responsible planning and design, inclusive Parks and Recreation and Library programming, infrastructure investment, and a growing arts and cultural scene. We are also fortunate to have a community with success in public-private partnerships that offer a long-term positive impact on our City. There are definitely many expanding reasons why Bentonville continues to garner awards and recognition as one of the best places in the United States to live, work, and play.
Bentonville is managed by an extraordinarily professional team. The City’s senior staff leads 541 full-time employees and 114 part-time employees. Our team is dedicated to providing taxpayers with an “exceeds expectations” return on their investment in city government. We also continue to invest in the accreditation and training to insure our employees have the most up-to-date skills and knowledge base needed to fulfill the City’s Mission to preserve, promote and sustain an excellent quality of life within our city. And in partnership with the Community, we pledge to deliver municipal services in a professional, personal and responsive manner for all.
Our Human Resources team have streamlined processes to provide online platforms to apply for positions. We also now provide a half day orientation program for employees on their first day to make them feel welcome and to give them an overview of the City and all our departments. We have also formed an employee relations team and hosted a staff picnic and holiday employee appreciation night to better engage and appreciate employees across all departments as we continue to grow.
More than 450 hours were dedicated to the Bentonville Together DEI initiative with over 20 community and over 30 staff listening sessions. In September, the DEI roadmap was completed and presented to City Council.
Sales Tax Receipts
I am pleased to tell you tonight Bentonville enjoyed another great year for sales tax with our per penny amount eclipsing $20 million for the first time. Bentonville’s 2021 sales tax receipts increased by 22.21% compared to 2020 collections. This increase echoes the development we see throughout Bentonville and the business community that serves our Citizens.
The Finance area of the City is made up of the Budget/Finance Team, Accounting Department, Purchasing Department and Utility Billing/Meter Reading departments. The group, along with IT and Human Resources, opened the new Administrative Services Building. This building at the corner of I Street and 14th Street provides a great location to conduct business with the City for employees, vendors, and citizens.
The Budget/Finance team successfully launched a new budget process for the City which culminated in a new day-long public Budget Review Workshop which took place on October 14th at the Community Center. The budget schedule was also revamped to allow for more time throughout the year for City departments to communicate about their budget needs.
The Accounting Department and Budget/Finance Team achieved its first ever Government Finance Office Association (GFOA) Triple Crown in financial reporting. The teams received all 3 GFOA awards; the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award, Distinguished Budget Presentation Award and the Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award. The City of Bentonville was actually the first City in Arkansas to achieve the Triple Crown recognition from the GFOA. They also worked to pass the Fund Balance and Review Policy and the Cash Management and Investment Policy, which were both passed by City Council in June 2021.
Our Accounting Department processed over 250 million dollars in payments during 2021. This amount included over 200 million to suppliers and bond holders, 34 million to employees and 15 million related to employee benefits.
In 2021, the Purchasing Department processed nearly 7,000 requisitions, 882 purchase card statements, and 86 formal competitive sealed solicitations. Along with many behind the scenes improvements made to the City’s procurement processes throughout 2021, and in June the City of Bentonville Purchasing Policy was passed at City Council. As Bentonville continued to see record growth and construction in 2021, Purchasing met the challenge to expand efforts in vendor outreach and take steps to make sure businesses knew how to work with the City and had an opportunity to bid on projects, such as offering 30-minute vendor introduction meetings to interested entities, and extending solicitation periods for sealed construction bids where possible. The Purchasing Department also ran its first test online auction in the later part of 2021, seeing $233,532.59 in gross proceeds from an initial batch of 16 items; with this success, the Department plans to move forward selling the City’s surplus items through online auctions throughout 2022.
The Utility Billing and Meter Department created over 331,000 bills and read more than 626,000 meters during 2021. They also answered almost 57,000 phone calls and responded to over 23,500 work orders to start or stop service during the year. The Department extended the solid waste contract for three years to allow a regional effort to enhance and harmonize recycling across Northwest Arkansas to mature, allowing the City’s next contract to take those efforts into consideration. They also reorganized the Department’s staff, designating new leadership roles and converting positions to focus efforts in targeted areas. The reorganization lays the groundwork for the Department’s operations as our community continues to grow. This process resulted in a formal five-year personnel plan.
The City’s IT Department moved their Datacenter and Network Communications Center to the New Administration Services Building with minimal loss of communication. They completed migration of City staff to Microsoft Office 365 email. They partnered with the Electric Department to implement redundant network connectivity for Phase 1 of Fiber Infrastructure for 25 City structures. They implemented a New Servicedesk Software resolving over 2,300 support cases. They deployed a new remote access technology solution citywide allowing staff flexible options for accessing their pcs when dealing with the pandemic and mobile work situations. The City phone system was reconfigured for inclement weather use to give citizens a better experience. Funding was secured for additional Cybersecurity, Remote Access Technology and Data Backup Solutions.
The City’s GIS team created over 1,600 address points, dealt with 10 full annexations and over 400 permit and easement cases.
Communication / Economic Development
Providing transparent, consistent, and timely communication remained a top priority in 2021. In September 2019, we launched Bentonville311. This online application allows citizens a single point of contact for non-emergency concerns in 21 categories. To date, we have received over 3,400 citizen service concerns and have completed 3,050 of these requests with the remaining in process. In 2021, we issued over 100 press releases, hosted 12 virtual Coffee with the Mayor sessions and continued to transition technology to offer meetings in a virtual platform. Our social media platform continues to grow and we have over 20,000 followers. This has been an effective communication tool to provide community information and highlight achievements and events within our departments.
A concentrated effort has been made to improve customer service for economic development. 24 new commercial projects were planned. Relationships have been built with Bentonville developers and with private/public partners to increase communication and make the process to build and invest in Bentonville easier. Our staff also serves on several workforce development groups to help maintain and recruit talent to our City.
In 2021, the Electric Department continued to use the Text Power program implemented in 2020, enabling residents to report a power outage via text feature on their mobile phones. 67,614 texts were sent and 1,243 texts were received from customers. The department installed 666 new electric meters, including 64 new net meters for solar installations, and completed installation of Priority 1 for the new City Fiber Loop that connected 3 substations, 6 buildings, 12 street lights and provided redundancy in communication. Additionally, they implemented a new rate schedule with net zero impact to customers, completed engineering to expand Substation “I”, and took over multiple Carroll Electric Cooperative customers in the SW portion of Bentonville. The department continued upgrading street lights to LED and hired a contractor to assist with change outs, and addressed over 400 Street Light 311 tickets. In addition, the department began construction on the Walmart Campus improvements, including the expansion of 2 substations, multiple underground installations and placed transmission line underground for the first time in Bentonville. In addition to the campus, the department placed infrastructure to allow for 8th Street electric to be put underground.
The Utility Board for the City of Bentonville became a voting body and experienced great success.
In February, Bentonville (along with a large portion of the mid-west United States) experienced a large winter storm and extended cold spell. While Bentonville did not experience any prolonged outages during that time, unlike some of our surrounding cities, the impact of the winter storm is still being felt. The fuel costs that are passed through from SWEPCO per our Purchase of Power Agreement elevated to a level that had never been seen. The cost of coal and natural gas jumped to a level that caused a $16M fuel charge to be passed on to the Bentonville rate payers. Bentonville spent the majority of 2021 ensuring that this was a valid charge and determining a way to pay the costs with the smallest impact to Bentonville rate payers. Bentonville was able to cover half of the costs from existing reserves and the remaining portion will come from a Utility Bond that is covered within the current rate structure. This means the $16M excess did not cause BEUD customer’s rates to increase. However, as the year progressed and fuel costs began to increase across the country, BEUD began seeing the fuel charge increase in the monthly SWEPCO bills. This fuel charge is passed through and added to the monthly ratepayers bills. So while the actual BEUD electric rates did not increase, everyone’s electric bill has gone up (and will continue) to increase as the cost of fuel continues to increase nationwide. Rest assured that BEUD is doing everything possible to keep rates as low as it can, but unfortunately there are some things outside of Bentonville’s control.
The Bentonville Electric Utility Department (BEUD) is also responsible for maintaining a 10’ clear zone from the overhead electric lines. This involves tree trimming and tree removal for any vegetation that falls within this zone. As part of this vegetation management, BEUD has a tree replacement program so that if a tree is removed and the ratepayer would like a replacement, a voucher will be provided. All of this together has allowed the department to maintain a 99.9999% reliability rate with a continued increase in customers. This Department is also working to install underground wire when the safety, reliability, and cost are optimal for ratepayers.
Bentonville’s water utility staff remains steadfast in assuring the citizens, businesses, and guests we serve have water and wastewater infrastructure planned and installed properly that will provide a solid foundation for generations to come.
Extreme weather conditions, water transmission line issues, meter system upgrades and filling vacant positions made 2021 a challenging year for the water department. Thankfully, through adversity we grow and gain valuable experiences that will make us all better service providers in the future.
In February, the region experienced a historical winter storm event with unprecedented low temperatures. The extreme temperatures, well below zero, put our employees and infrastructure to the test. The water department experienced damage to our water tanks on I street, water main line breaks and numerous “no water calls” that required all of our staff to work around the clock.
In March, the Water Department was made aware of a potential water leak in Lowell in the vicinity of our 48” transmission water line. This line supplies water to Bentonville and to our wholesale customers including Cave Springs and Bella Vista. The line was taken out of service for about 3 weeks and we requested help from our neighbors with the Rogers Water Utilities who supplied water through an emergency backup supply connection. Bella Vista and Beaver Water District also helped by controlling water volume as the project took place. Thanks to our staff’s response and coordination with neighboring cities, Bentonville customers did not see any interruption in service.
The City has continued its work on our Automated Metering Infrastructure. We have been working diligently with our contractor to get the meters back to reading at an acceptable rate. The contractor has provided material and labor to help correct our metering system and our staff has spent countless man hours to support the effort. This is an important project for timely meter readings and a strong area of emphasis in our broader work on water loss in our system to which our staff remains focused.
With the help of the Human Resources Department, the Water Department revised its pay plan and is seeing better results in recruiting and retaining employees.
In 2021, the average amount of water purchased daily was almost 12,894,000 gallons, with the highest day reaching 18,851,000 gallons. This is the all-time single highest day. Over 6 miles of new water line and over 7.5 miles of new sewer line were installed during 2021. The Operations Team completed 11,555 utility locates. Over 7,800 work orders pertaining to the water system, sanitary sewer system, and water meter maintenance system were completed. A little over 27 miles of sewer main was video inspected and almost 1.5 million feet (approximately 280 miles) of sewer main was hydro-cleaned. Over 9.5 miles of offsite easements along our sanitary sewer mains were cleared and made accessible for maintenance.
The Technical Services team was involved in new development and attended 48 pre-construction meetings, completed 1,492 plan reviews and conducted 1,348 inspections of water and sewer appurtenances. In 2020, the Nomad Sewer Interceptor project began, adding over 9,000 linear feet of sewer main which allowed us to better serve additional growth in the southwest area of the city and removed one lift station at Nomad Road. This project was completed and put into service in 2021.
The Department also manages a Cross-Connection Control program that includes over 6,000 backflow devices. The process of implementing a web-based platform that will allow testers to upload test results via the internet directly to the program coordinator is currently under way.
The Wastewater Pre-treatment program conducted 132 inspections and verified that 421 grease control devices or sand-oil separators were maintained. A total of 401,000 gallons of fats, oils and grease were removed from the collection system through grease control devices.
The data collection phase of the Wastewater Collection System analysis has been completed. The consultant is currently verifying the data and calibrating the collection system model. This will allow us to pinpoint trouble areas for our Collection Maintenance Team. They will be able to make a greater difference with the infiltration and inflow that is taking up capacity within our collection system. This information is vital to accommodate additional growth.
The Water Resource Recovery Facility treated in excess of 1 billion gallons of wastewater during 2021. The grit chamber project was completed in July 2021, and the system is performing exceptionally well. An in-vessel composting unit was piloted in June, the results from the pilot were above and beyond our expectations and we are working to move this project forward utilizing ARPA funding. Three new lift stations came on-line in 2021 with the addition of 2 subdivisions and work on the new Walmart campus.
The Water Resource Recovery Team continued maintenance to ensure compliance for safe and efficient operations. The Volute dewatering press that was installed in 2019 continues to perform well for our dewatering process and no solids were transported out of state or to the landfills.
The team is continuing to gather data for Hawkins-Weir Engineering that will provide us capacity information and the continuing efforts to upgrade this facility to keep up with growth in the City.
Nancy Busen retired from the department in December 2021, after a 20 year tenure. Chris Earl was promoted to manager and we look forward to his leadership in this role.
Public Works Maintenance
The public works maintenance team creates much of the clean, professional, and appealing appearance witnessed throughout the City. Many of the kind remarks we receive from visitors regarding the cleanliness of our City can be attributed to the daily work of this team.
The Department continued to work on their 4-year project started in 2018 to convert all city facilities from fluorescent and incandescent lighting to LED. This project consisted of converting over 1,000 fluorescent lightbulbs and/or fixtures to LED technology. The department is on track to complete this conversion by the end of February 2022. This Department maintains over 9,000 headstones at our City cemetery, does 35 miles of mowing and edging located in right-of-way throughout the City, is responsible for over 3,500 make-a-difference trees planted in City right of way, and performs mowing, janitorial, and general maintenance on public facilities throughout the City. As of the date of this writing, there are 771 veterans interred in our cemetery.
In August, the Public Works Maintenance team moved into the new 12,800 square foot facility located at 2401 Aviation Drive.
The City’s Transportation team has continued serving the citizens by improving and maintaining the transportation infrastructure network. A main focus of 2021 was spent preparing projects that would eventually be voted in for improvements through the 2021 Street and Drainage Bond election.
The Transportation Department’s 2021 capital projects included the completion of the NW 3rd/Walton Intersection Improvements, which included the addition of left turn lanes for NW 3rd street traffic and installation of a new signal for a protected left turn movement. The Water Tower Road/8th Street Phase I is under construction and will provide a connection from the 8th Street Interchange on I-49 to Water Tower Rd. There are 28 Street Bond projects and 23 Drainage Bond projects in design phase.
The Street Department completed 10 miles of pavement preservation throughout the City, used 653 tons of asphalt for pothole repair and completed 6.9 miles of pavement crack sealing. They cleaned 2 miles of drainage ditches, repaired 107 linear feet of concrete curb and 534 linear feet of concrete sidewalk. They placed a little over 12,000 gallons of salt brine for pre-treatment of the streets and 203 tons of salt on roadways for ice removal. The street department completed 401 items submitted through the Bentonville 311 system.
The engineering department is tasked with providing advice and technical expertise to assist elected officials, planning commission, public agencies, and citizens in understanding key issues and prioritizing projects. Additionally, they review development plans, maintain design and construction specifications, conduct field inspections, and insure all work conforms to City codes to provide quality developments and growth consistent with our long-term commitment to economic vitality and environmental sustainability.
The engineering department accepted 61 projects as complete. They supported the Street Department on sidewalk improvements, street improvements, and drainage projects. They supported the approval of the Street and Drainage Bond Election, kicked off design of the bond projects, started construction of Water Tower Road, completed Town Vu and SW I Improvements, bid Cub Circle sidewalk, Tiger and Walton Signal, South Main Improvements and 8th Street. They supported the preparation of the Master Street Plan, supported the revised flood mapping for Little Osage Creek Tributary II and prepared drainage and street ordinance revisions.
Attention grew in 2021 at the Bentonville Municipal Airport, as aviation continued to be a very popular outdoor recreation. The collaboration with our Fixed Based Operator (FBO) was enhanced and we saw great growth in flights and flight school numbers and an increased interest to observe planes taking off and landing at the airport. Our part-time Wildlife Control Officer and Maverick the goose dog were impactful to help control the geese population. Maverick has become a local celebrity and one of our most popular additions to the airport. A new electric charging station was added for EV aircraft charging which is the first of this type in Arkansas. Two vehicle EV charging stations were also added to the airport parking lot. Construction began on the East Taxiway Project and the South Runway Extension with completion anticipated in early 2022. A plan was also established to remove the large dirt pile in 2022 to allow for growth on the west side of the airport.
Parks & Recreation
While COVID-19 continued to have a major impact on our Parks and Recreation programming, the Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department was able to offer safe, high quality programs, events, and facilities to the community. Over 160,000 people participated in our programs and events in 2021 and over 275,000 patrons visited the Bentonville Community Center. Through these amenities, we were able to generate over 3.1 million dollars in revenue.
As we saw in 2020, our outdoor parks and trails continued to be a vital resource for the community. Despite the Applegate Trail and Bella Vista Lake Trail being closed since the floods in March, more than 3.5 million people utilized our trail system in 2021.
On August 2nd, Old Tiger Track was re-opened after a facility improvement project which provided a resurfaced running and walking track with lights, a new restroom, trail connections, and a picnic table and seating area. In 2022, a new pavilion will be installed at the park to complete the project. The infields at Merchants Park received a much needed improvement over the summer. All four infields at the complex were reconstructed and new ballfield dirt infill was brought in to provide a higher quality playing surface. This improvement will allow the fields to play better and also drain better, preventing fewer rain out dates for the boys and girls playing softball and baseball at the park. Durham Park received a new play structure in 2021. The old structure had become outdated and in need of replacement. The new boulder and climbing structure was installed to provide kids a safe place to climb and play at the neighborhood park.
Parks and Recreation completed and Council approved the master plans for Bella Vista Lake and the Connect Bentonville Bike & Pedestrian Master Plan. These plans will shape the character of Bentonville and will offer much needed community and amenity connections, dynamic play, leisure, and cultural experiences for our citizens and visitors for generations to come.
In Partnership with Bentonville Police Department, Alison Worley was hired as the Animal Services Manager on March 8, 2021. Last year was a milestone year for this department as City Council authorized a Guaranteed Maximum Price for the new facility in July of 2021. On December 1, 2021 the Animal Services Department held a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Animal Services and Adoption Center. City Council members, city employees, CR Crawford & Hight Jackson employees, and key animal-related partners and donors attended. The desired opening date for the facility is January 2023.
Animal Services partnered with the Parks and Recreation Department to hold microchip clinics at once-a-month Yappy Hours, held June through September. Around 300 pet owners attended each event. This department was also active at numerous First Friday and Farmer’s Market events as they raise awareness for the upcoming facility and education for responsible pet ownership in the City. The Bentonville Pet-Friendly Business Program rolled out in October. This program is open to businesses within city limits that allow pets inside or on the patio.
The Animal Services Officers went on a total of 2,060 calls in 2021. In 2021, 215 dogs were taken to the Centerton Animal Shelter, with 93 reunited with their pet parents. The return-to-owner rate was 43%, a 17% decrease from 2020 and a reason you will continue to see this department focused on responsible pet ownership and increased microchipping events. A total of $510,933.72 was raised in donations for the Animal Services Department and facility.
Public Safety, specifically law enforcement, has had numerous changes over the last two years from civil unrest to working though major impacts of COVID-19.
During 2021, our Bentonville Emergency Communications Center handled approximately 122,861 calls coming into the center from phone calls, 911 calls, and non-emergency calls; overall a 19% increase from 2020.
In 2021, about 51,203 of these calls were police department calls for service. Another 6,721 calls were related to Fire and EMS calls for service. The Bentonville Emergency Communications Center received numerous other calls and were a voice for many community members either providing or requesting information for the city or surrounding jurisdictions.
With COVID-19, the use of parks and trails within the community increased. Our patrol division and bike team provided near daily security on our City trail system, downtown area, and parks to increase our visibility and overall safety.
The Bentonville Bomb Squad finished the year with 22 Calls for Service. Of those 22 calls, 1 IED was rendered safe, 6 explosive recoveries, 13 suspicious package investigations and 2 bomb threat investigations were completed. Comparatively, in 2020 there were 32 calls for service. In 2020, Bentonville Bomb Squad was awarded $236,794 from Department of Homeland Security Grants for the purchase of a new team communications system, blast mitigation equipment, radiation detectors, x-ray equipment, specialized training, and maintenance. All these items were attained and completed in 2021. For 2021, with purchases to begin in 2022, the Bentonville Bomb Squad was awarded $790,000. These funds will be used for the purchase of a new bomb response apparatus, upgrades to a 20-year-old robot, and a drone.
Additionally, there were approximately 69 bomb squad related activities. These activities consist of Training (received and provided), Operational Standby’s, Community Outreach – Demonstrations, Canine / Bomb Sweeps for Event Security, Meetings, Explosive Demos, and Explosive Transfers.
Cpl. Adam McInnis was selected as the Public Information Officer for the Police Department. Among many items, Cpl. McInnis is specifically tasked with starting and managing all community engagement programs for this department. While navigating COVID-19 concerns, the department completed a Citizens Police Academy class with 20 graduates. This program makes a huge impact on our officers and graduates with perceptions and a better understanding of their local Police department. Numerous other events are planned for 2022 to include Youth Academies, National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, Active Shooter Training for Civilians, Women’s Self Defense Courses, and more.
Two large projects approved by the 2021 bond extension include updating our public safety radio system and a law enforcement training facility. The police department hired a consultant for the radio project and it is set to be finalized in the beginning of 2022 with an 18 month build out. The law enforcement training facility included a virtual simulator, which was received in January 2022 and is currently in use, along with an outdoor live firing range, set to be completed by late summer. Both are going to have a tremendous impact on our in-service training made available to officers.
The Bentonville Police Department partners with numerous federal agencies to include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Department of Homeland Security (HSI), and the United States Secret Service (USSS). With the FBI, this agency is a part of the Northwest Arkansas Child Exploitation Task Force, with the mission of identifying victims of human trafficking and child exploitation and bringing justice to those responsible. With both the Homeland Security Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force and the United States Secret Service Cyber Crime Task Force, our agency partners with these agencies for a variety of investigations to include fraud, narcotics, and counterfeit currency investigations. Starting in 2021, we assigned a detective full-time to the FBI task force. This will help with current and future needs in this area.
According to the United States Secret Service Forensic Reporting Partnership reporting system, Bentonville Police Department has handled more device examinations than any other reporting agency in the state. Specifically, this agency handled almost three times the amount of any other agency in Arkansas. This would be the second year in a row that the Bentonville Police Department has handled more device examinations that any other agency according to the United States Secret Service reporting statistics.
Bentonville continues to be a very safe community. Our Police Department reported no trends in criminal activity for 2021 that should cause concern for our citizens. Although two homicides occurred during the year, the Department acted quickly to ensure public safety, solving each within one week.
The Bentonville Police Department worked with our Human Resources Department to complete a review and adjust telecommunicator’s salary to be competitive with surrounding agencies and in–line with training requirements for advancement in job families. On October 1, 2021 Ray Shastid was selected as the new Police Chief following the retirement of Chief Jon Simpson on September 30. This resulted in multiple promotions from retirements to include new Command Staff Member, Tony Marveggio as Patrol Commander.
A major goal for this department is to continue to increase employee training and professional development throughout 2022. This includes updating all of our policies and procedures and completing the State accreditation program. Overall, the 2021 efforts and accomplishments of our police department will help us better support, protect, and serve our community now and into the future.
The Bentonville Police Department also partnered with the Bentonville Fire Department for a mass notification system which has been deployed already at several city events.
In 2021, the Bentonville Fire Department’s drone program was placed into service and is operational. Also in 2021, two new ALS Ambulances were ordered and received. This brings the total number to four ambulances that provide an enhanced, controlled environment that eliminates viruses and bacteria. The new fire engine for Station 5 was received and placed into service. This unit known as an Advanced Life Support Engine is the second of its kind for the City of Bentonville. These units are capable of offering initial, lifesaving paramedic responses in advance of an ambulance. The fire department ordered two new fire apparatuses that will meet the future needs and trends of the city. The first is an articulating aerial that will allow the department to access current and future buildings in the city. The second will be the first Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting vehicle (ARFF) to be located at Station 6. This vehicle is specifically designed for aircraft emergencies. The ARFF was secured using an $800,000 grant, the gift was from the Runway Fund at Fidelity Charitable, at the recommendation of Steuart Walton.
The Fire Department received 11,501 Fire/EMS Division Calls for Service, down 9.5% over 2020. The most notable – a 10.1% decrease in EMS Calls for Service (4,554). There was a 4.2% increase in fires (149), 45.9% increase in Rescue Calls for Service (96) and 16.1% increase in Automatic Alarm calls (662). The Department administered over 6,000 COVID-19 vaccines to the public and City employees. In September, the Bentonville Fire Department was awarded the Spirit of Bentonville award for their hard work and dedication during the COVID-19 vaccine clinics. The Fire Training Division conducted 46,598 hours of training, a 1% increase over 2020.
An architect (Jackson Brown Palculict Architects) and civil engineer (Halff Associates) were hired to develop plans for the expansion of Station 3. The plans are ready and will go out to bid in the next few weeks.
Following the successful bond election, a construction manager (Clinard Construction) and civil engineer (Halff Associates) were hired to develop plans for the training facility on Aviation Drive.
The Building and Fire Division saw a 10% increase in building permits (4,741), a 45% increase in permit fees ($2,367,368.00) and 52.6% increase in permit value.
In 2021, the City of Bentonville Legal Department handled 2,467 new criminal and traffic cases in Bentonville District Court. The casework of criminal and traffic cases included arraignment, discovery, negotiation with defendants and defense counsel, plea hearings, case preparation and trials. Additionally, staff provided legal and prosecution support for criminal investigations, and assisted with implementation of alternative sentencing and case resolution to promote public safety and individual treatment.
On the civil side, the department drafted numerous ordinances and resolutions, prepared or reviewed all City contracts and negotiated land transactions to support City projects. The Legal Department consulted regularly with all City departments to provide guidance and risk management on many complex matters.
The department maintained its continuous efforts to support and assist all departments, employees, and outside programs and relationships in the community. The legal department investigator has assisted with numerous requests throughout the city. His diligent work throughout the year has helped provide guidance to enhance customer service and public safety throughout the City of Bentonville.
The addition of the Associate Staff Attorney position in 2021 has allowed the department to streamline contacts and provide higher levels of service to all departments by sharing representation and assignments.
In 2021, Bentonville Public Library (BPL) continued its response to the COVID-19 Pandemic to protect the health and safety of staff and patrons, as well as help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus in our community by promoting digital services, offering virtual programs and presenting outdoor events. During 2021, the Library recorded 694,674 checkouts and 169,190 library visits. Program attendance, both in-person and virtual participation, totaled more than 11,870 patrons.
BPL completed a Needs Assessment study to serve as a guiding framework for the Library’s future expansion. The report implemented several public engagement techniques, Bentonville-specific data and national library trends. The study was prepared by MSR Design and funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. With funding from the 2021 bond election, the Library began its expansion project by contracting with MSR Design for design services and Flintco for preconstruction services.
The Library built six learning gardens through a partnership with the Master Gardeners of Benton Co. Fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers were planted, maintained and harvested by BPL teen volunteers and shared with the community. The project was funded by the Friends of the Bentonville Library and earned the City of Bentonville an honorable mention as a Trendsetter City for Environmental/Green Management Practices by Arkansas Business.
BPL’s Backyard was also the perfect place to host special events for the community! Bentonville Public Library collaborated with the Library Foundation, Ozark Outdoor Foundation and several other community partners to present two festivals that featured books, crafts, music, food, yoga and special bike activities for children. The outdoor celebrations were attended by 2,500 people.
The Library debuted a new mobile app that is user-friendly and provides patrons several new options to access their account. They also launched new Discovery Kits, adding to its “Library of Things” collection for patron checkout, to include: STEAM, hobbies, technology and other subjects for all ages.
Bentonville Public Library was again a designated site for Bentonville Schools’ and Aramark’s Summer Feeding Program. BPL’s Tech Card program continued into its eighth year. The Walmart ROC Team provided volunteer support for packet preparation. Also in 2021, the Library debuted the Mayor’s Book Club with a panel discussion and book club discussion for the public and City staff. The Mayor’s Book Club is sponsored by the Library Foundation and is expanding to a quarterly program in 2022. BPL was the recipient of grant funds totaling $175,769 allowing the library to purchase remoteLockers, improve WIFI connectivity and expand its ebook collection. The grants were made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the CARES Act and distributed by the Arkansas State Library and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
In October, the Library celebrated 15 years at 405 South Main Street with more than 8.2 million checkouts, over 4 million visits and programs were attended by more than half-a-million people, among other accomplishments. The anniversary was a fitting time to honor volunteers for their service to the Library and for the Library Foundation to kick-off the capital campaign supporting BPL’s expansion.
Planning and Building Services
The current Planning division of the Community Development Department is the first stop for most development activity. The projects submitted to this division serve as an indicator for future construction levels and workload for other departments.
The Planning Department processed 374 projects in 2021, up nearly 3% from 2020. This is the highest number of items coming through the department since 2004. These items include preliminary and final plats, large scale developments, property line adjustments, lot splits, rezonings, conditional uses, variances and waivers. Development items made up 61% of all projects and zoning requests made up the remaining 39%.
Planning Commission reviewed 79 rezoning requests, an increase of 3 from the previous year and the highest number since 2005. Planning Commission saw 25 conditional uses, down nearly 42% from the previous year. The Board of Adjustment reviewed 38 variances, an increase of almost 23%.
The Planning Commission approved a total of 22 preliminary plats with 661 lots and approved six final plats with 492 lots. They also approved a total of 61 large-scale developments. This was down almost 19% from 2020. Lot splits and property line adjustments were both up from 2020, 16% and 12% respectively.
The largest subdivisions final platted were Aurora, Phase 1 with 224 lots and Glen Arbor with 119 lots. A total of 994 multi-family residential units were approved in 13 large scale development projects. The largest multi-family project planned is 102 West Apartments, located on SW 14 St. with 408 multifamily units. Planning Commission approved 24 commercial projects, up by one project from 2020. Projects are dominated by large scale developments for various phases of the Walmart Home Office Campus. Other commercial projects included restaurants and automotive-related businesses.
The Code Enforcement division of Current Planning is responsible for enforcing the property maintenance codes, conducting inspections and posting public hearing signs. In 2021, the city’s two code enforcement officers conducted 1,479 property maintenance inspections, and responded to 329 cases in the Bentonville 311 reporting system. They managed a total of 689 cases, issued 212 fence permits and posted 151 public hearing signs. Officers conducted over 249 additional inspections for fences and demolitions during 2021.
Many of the Zoning and Land Development code updates adopted in 2021 were in response to the Code Diagnostic completed in late 2020. These updates included policies and amendments to align and maintain alignment between the Future Land Use Plan Map and the Zoning Map; provide consistency with the newly adopted Master Street Plan; lot standards that provide more opportunities for affordable housing; regulating donation boxes to maintain safety and aesthetics, and allowing parklets to support economic development. Code amendments included the following: adopting the Future Land Use Map and Zoning District Alignment Policy to guide rezoning decisions, updating the Future Land Use Map for consistency with rezonings since 2018, requiring a Future Land Use Map amendment when a rezoning does not align with the Future Land Use Map and Zoning District Alignment Policy, eliminating the sidewalk standards in the Downtown Core and Downtown Edge zoning districts that are now being addressed in the recently adopted Master Street Plan, amending lot and setbacks standards for residential zoning districts to better accommodate smaller lot sizes to increase opportunities for affordable housing, establishing regulations for semi-permanent parklets, adopting the 2021 Zoning Code and Land Development Code Amendments and regulating donation boxes.
The city gave away 870 trees to Bentonville residents during two events: The Spring Tree Giveaway on April 17 and the Fall Tree Giveaway on October 23. The giveaways were made possible by the city’s Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee, the Bentonville Parks Conservancy, Steuart Walton, and the Walton Family Foundation. Bentonville was recognized as a Tree City USA for the 23rd consecutive year by spending at least $2 per capita on tree-related expenditures, having an active tree board, and hosting an Arbor Day celebration.
The Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee awarded five Residential Landscaping of the Month Awards. The award recognizes residents who have improved and maintained the exterior landscaping of their homes. The Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee awarded one Commercial Landscaping Award.
The city’s Adopt-A-Street program provides litter removal supplies to groups that pick up litter along assigned city streets. In 2021, the program had three active Adopt-A-Street groups, made up of approximately 40 volunteers.
During the summer of 2020, the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) Committee issued a Call for NWA artists to support the local art community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two selected pieces totaling $14,050 were installed early in 2021. The first is a permanent sculpture and landscape display titled The Almost Forgotten Osage Prairie by Jonathan Perodin located at Lake Bentonville Park. The second was a temporary fabric and poem piece titled Guide These, My Hands by Danielle Hatch and Traci Rae Manos that was on display in Train Station Park from May until October. They also approved two proposals from organizations outside the city to install on public property.
The Great Neighborhoods Partnership Program doubled its participating neighborhoods in 2022 and now has 14 neighborhood partners. The Neighborhood Advisory Committee, with a representative from each neighborhood partner, began meeting regularly each month. Speakers at these meetings included the Bentonville Public Library, Bentonville Parks and Recreation Department, and the Transportation Department. 2021 marked the inaugural year for the Block Party Trailer. Three partnering neighborhoods used the trailer, which includes tables, chairs, coolers, games and other supplies, for their neighborhood event. In December, the Great Neighborhoods Program held its second annual Holiday Decorating Contest, open to all neighborhoods or areas within Bentonville. Seven neighborhoods entered the contest, with Woods Creek Subdivision winning the Most Holiday Spirit Award for the second year in a row, and Lochmoor Club winning the People’s Choice Award.
Bentonville offers transportation assistance for low-income, elderly and disabled Bentonville residents by supplementing the costs associated with taxi fares. The program has 63 riders who took 1,241 rides. Seventeen of those riders are new to the program. In 2021, a total of 7,686 punches were redeemed, amounting to $15,542 in transportation assistance.
Comprehensive Planning also works to educate and inform residents about important issues and provide opportunities for public engagement. The City hosted a series of meetings for each of the City’s four wards over the course of the year in a safe, health-conscious manner offering both an in-person, socially distanced platform, as well as a virtual opportunity, in compliance with CDC guidelines. City Council members, city staff and I engaged residents in a conversation about public safety, property maintenance, community programs, and initiatives. The meetings provide an opportunity to meet the Mayor, your Council Representatives, key city staff, hear about current and future City initiated projects, ask questions, and learn about community resources.
For the first time, Bentonville participated in #CityHallSelfie day. This is a day all about pride in local government, hosted by Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). Employees and residents were asked to take a selfie in front of a municipal building and post on social media with the #cityhallselfie. One of Bentonville’s submissions was recognized with an Honorable Mention in their “Best Hat” category.
Planning hosted two joint meetings between Planning Commission and City Council. The meetings are designed to share information with those officials to ensure greater consistency in implementing the Community Plan. Planning was also the City point for the 2020 Census, which as mentioned earlier, revealed an unprecedented 53.4% in growth!
As I close the State of the City tonight, I want you to know I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve the City of Bentonville. I along with all City Departments have high expectations for 2022 and it will take all of us working together to accomplish these goals. As I started tonight, I want to end in saying thank you and expressing again my deep appreciation for the collaboration and care I see demonstrated in our City on a daily basis. Successful cities at their core rely on the Community to make them what they are. Bentonville is a strong and growing City because of all of you. I truly love this City and the people here and I know you do too! We value our residents and are committed to creating ways for all to connect to our City and strive to make Bentonville the best City in America to live, work, and play. If 2021 has shown us anything, it’s how much a community can do when we work together. I’m looking forward to what we can do together in 2022!
Thank you all ~ may God continue to bless Bentonville, Northwest Arkansas, and the United States of America!
Mayor Stephanie Orman
City of Bentonville