State of the City
January 29, 2020
At the start of a new decade, I am very proud to report the State of Bentonville is strong. We, as a Community, are thriving! We have a beautiful City with fabulous people! I can’t wait to see what the future holds, and if the past year is any indication, we are in for some exciting times! Tonight we look to celebrate the accomplishments of 2019, honor those who have contributed to our City’s success and set forth future goals. This past year many people worked very hard to make Bentonville great, and I can’t say thank you enough. To our City Council…thank you for the many hours you spend addressing resident concerns and supporting City initiatives.
Let’s keep working together every day to make Bentonville great and respond to citizen needs. Every Monday, I meet with a group of Community Leaders dedicated to making the quality of life in Bentonville unmatched.
Over the past year, I have certainly appreciated my time with Doctor Debbie Jones with the Bentonville Public School System, Benton County Judge Barry Moehring, Sam Dean with the Amazeum, Kalene Griffith with Visit Bentonville, Graham Cobb with The Bentonville Chamber of Commerce, Alan Dranow with The Walmart Museum, Sandy Edwards with Crystal Bridges, Karen Minkel with the Walton Family Foundation Home Region, Nancy Leak and Andrew Heath with Downtown Bentonville who organizes some of the City’s most attended family events like First Fridays, Farmers Markets, the Bentonville Art and Culinary Festival, The Christmas Parade and the Lighting on the Square. Without the support and collaboration of Community Leaders like this and the willingness of private citizens and businesses to work together, we would not be able to make the strides we have in our City’s overall quality of life. We have many exciting economic projects on the horizon. I am especially thankful for the Walton Family and the new Walmart Headquarters Executive Team. There is a lot to accomplish, and together we are working hard to make Bentonville the BEST City in America to live, work, and play! There is another very important group that works extremely hard every day to deliver quality services to our citizens, and that is our dedicated team of over 500 City employees. They reflect the mission and values of our City and get results for our residents. It is truly my honor to work with them. Please join me in giving them a hand!
And, last but certainly not least I want to say thank you to our citizens..people like the moms and dads who volunteer to coach in our park and recreation programs, our senior center volunteers, our Friends of the Library, our Board and Commission members, our PTO moms and dads, our POA officers, our incredible volunteer force…people like Tara Fleming. I am very thankful for Community Leaders like Tara who take the initiative to do good. She and her family invite neighbors and friends literally into their back yard to enjoy games and booths that promote fun, being a good neighbor, and connecting with others all to help a deserving cause. This year they raised over $5,000 to support the Clover Community School in Bentonville, which focuses on helping families with special needs. Tara was also very involved with the community engagement games and booth area for our 1st Annual Choose Love community-wide celebration. Thank you, Tara, for offering your heart and home to build connections and serve others in our community, and I want to congratulate you for being the first to receive the newly created Spirit of Bentonville Award. Tonight I would also like to honor London Harris, London was a victim of bullying. She did not think it was ok and so she decided to do something about it. London created her own personal platform called “CLAP for Confidence.” CLAP is a program with the mission to help those that have been victims of bullying to try and overcome that feeling of “not feeling good enough.” Since implementing this program, London has spoken to over 600 students in our community.
She regularly visits local elementary schools, Girl Scout groups, and various youth groups to spread her message. She has also created a group at Creekside Middle School that advocates for a better way and recently took on being a peer mentor for a young girl who I know suffers from being bullied. London and Tara, thank you both for exemplifying The Spirit of Bentonville Award and congratulations on being my first honorees. Your commitment to be part of the solution, spend countless volunteer hours, and support an overall healthier community represents the Best of Bentonville and is a big reason why I am implementing the Spirit of Bentonville Award. This award will honor Bentonville residents, like 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.
Along with the Spirit of Bentonville Award, I am excited to announce the creation of the Mayor’s Youth Council for 2020. The Youth Council will provide a conduit for youth to voice to city leadership, help promote civic engagement, foster an understanding of how municipal government works, tackle a real-world city issue, and propose a solution to present to the Mayor and city staff.
I am also excited to announce the creation in 2020 of the Mayor’s Community Council. This Council will be appointed and directed by the Mayor. It will be 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. This Council will work to solve a real-world city concern and be the first to go through a newly created Bentonville City Academy. The Bentonville City Academy is being established based on a City Employee suggestion gathered in 2019. A special thank you to Theresa Yorek, who is a lab technician in our Wastewater Department, for making this suggestion.
As a thriving 21st century city, Bentonville is a destination for regional, national and worldwide travelers. With many continued announcements of economic success, including the New Corporate Headquarters for Walmart Inc., Bentonville is set to be the City to watch in 2020. With a population estimated to be just over 50,000, Bentonville is known for its welcoming spirit and its “can do” attitude. Home to the world’s largest retailer, a famous art museum and soon to be two, people groups from throughout the world, an entrepreneurial spirit, a comprehensive trail system, and beautiful trees and natural open spaces for all to enjoy, 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 lead 506 full-time employees and 116 part-time employees. Our team is dedicated to providing taxpayers with an “exceeds expectations” return on their investment in city government. The entire team strives to always operate in a professional, customer-friendly manner and are a point of difference for our City. We continue to invest in their accreditation and training as our employees must have the skills and knowledge base needed to be a standout City in the 21st Century.
Sales Tax Receipts
I can start by confidently saying that the state of our City is very positive. Bentonville enjoyed another great year for sales tax with our per penny amount eclipsing 15 million for the first time. Bentonville’s 2019 sales tax receipts increased by 11.93% compared to 2018 collections. This increase is attributed to our population growth and the strong economic climate in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas during 2019. It is a great compliment to our City when local businesses enjoy the benefits of growth, which is represented through our consistent and strong sales tax collections over the last several years.
Communication / Economic Development
Providing transparent communication is a top priority. In September of 2019, we launched Bentonville311. This online application allows citizens a single point of contact for non-emergency concerns in 21 categories. Citizens receive email progress reports as their issues are being addressed. Concerns are housed in a database for accountability for our department heads to provide resolution and a history of issues that have been reported. I am proud to say we have resolved over 350 concerns through this system in only a short 4-month period. We launched social media to help keep our citizens informed. This has been an effective communication tool and helps to highlight achievements and events within our departments. We have developed strong relationships with the NWA media core and have increased the efforts to tell the Bentonville story. A concentrated effort has been made to improve customer service for economic development. Relationships have been built with Bentonville developers to increase communication and make the process to build and invest in Bentonville easier. Efforts to recruit business to Bentonville and provide workshops and training for minority and women-owned business is a continued focus. Our staff also serves on several workforce development groups to help maintain and recruit talent to our City.
The Utility Billing team managed the collection and administration of more than $94.4 million from more than 25,446 accounts. In 2019, Utility Billing updated the billing cycle boundaries to even out the invoicing Citywide. The effort to continue to expand the paperless billing initiative resulted in 3.2% fewer bills being mailed, even though active accounts grew by 6.4%.
The Department also increased customer awareness to and knowledge of Invoice Cloud website tools. This resulted in 47.5% more AutoPay, 53% more Paperless customers, and increased email addresses on file.
In 2019, the Electric Department installed over 1,400 new electric meters, a 6% increase from 2018. The Electric Department established a new Utility Board for the City of Bentonville, began coordination with Walmart for the new campus, which includes large electric relocations and additions, installed a new fiber run to Substation F, began doing all-electric inspections within their Department, began an in-house safety program, began streetlight LED conversions, completed approximately 60 large underground projects including multiple apartment buildings and substations, permitted numerous residential and commercial solar installations, and assisted Siloam Springs with rebuilds after the tornado.
The Bentonville Electric Utility Department currently operates and maintains 9 substations, 1 switching station, a little over 16 miles of transmission line, over 900 miles of distribution line, over 3,500 street lights, and at the most recent count of 25,446 electric accounts. 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 rate payer would like a replacement, a voucher will be provided. All of this together has allowed BEUD to maintain a 99.9999% reliability rate with a growing electric infrastructure need. The 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 that quality plans are developed, proper water and wastewater infrastructure is installed and that the future of the water utilities has a solid foundation for generations to come.
The average amount of water purchased daily was 11,243,000 gallons, with the highest day reaching 15,520,000 gallons. The total water and sewer systems in the City were increased by 5 miles each, resulting in 330 miles of water pipe and 311 miles of sewer system pipe. 11,357 utility locates took place in 2019 with the highest day seeing 137. Over 4,500 work orders pertaining to the water system, sanitary sewer system, and water meter maintenance system were completed in 2019. 987 water samples were pulled from our water system. 120,000’ of sewer main was video inspected and over a million feet of sewer main was hydro-cleaned. Over 9 miles of offsite easements along our sanitary sewer mains were cleared and made accessible. The Department managed a Cross-Connection Control program that includes almost 6,000 backflow devices. A complete inside and outside renovation of the Downtown Water Tank was completed. Over 1,100 meetings were conducted involving 81 active and 57 completed new development projects. A position was upgraded in both the water and sewer department to Construction Inspectors to assist with the high demand associated with new developments. The Department also supported Bentonville running events by operating a watering station for them.
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 City purchased property located at S.W. Aviation and S.W. 24th Street for a Public Works Maintenance Facility, hired a design team and began project design. The Department also started a four-year project to convert all city facilities from fluorescent and incandescent lighting to LED. This Department maintains over 9000 headstones at our City cemetery, does 35 miles of mowing and edging located in right-of-way throughout the City, is responsible for over 3500 make-a-difference trees planted in City right of way, and performs mowing, janitorial, and general maintenance on public facilities throughout the City.
The Wastewater Treatment operations saw aged and obsolete equipment of more than 30 years old replaced with newer, more efficient, and safer equipment. The old belt press was replaced with a Screw Press. The clarifier, membranes in digesters #1 and #2, rotors, and grit classifiers were replaced. The old metal diamond plate catwalks were replaced with material containing grating, providing better traction during wet and winter weather. The Wastewater Team continued maintenance to ensure compliance and safe and efficient operations.
The Transportation Department’s completed capital projects in 2019 included the North Walton resurfacing, where new asphalt for all travel lanes were placed from Rainbow Curve to the roundabout at exit 93. The S.E. 8th and I-49 interchange was completed. This created on/off access for S.E. 8th and rerouted the on/off ramps for S.E. 14th. In addition, all of the utilities for the remainder of S.E. 8th improvements have completed their relocations. In 2019 the Single Point Urban Interchange project constructed by ARDOT and located at exit 93 was kicked off. This project will replace the existing roundabout and construct next access ramps, while also accommodating for a tunnel crossing for the Razorback Greenway Trail.
The street department completed 2.5 miles of street mill and inlay throughout the City. Additionally, the street department placed 1,041 tons of asphalt to repair street cuts and potholes, cleaned 2 miles of drainage ditches, placed 469 tons of riprap in drainage ditches, placed 150 cubic yards of concrete to repair and replace curbs and sidewalks, placed approximately 4,000 gallons of salt brine for pre-treatment of the streets and 86 tons of salt on streets for ice removal. The Street Department works hard to maintain and prioritize over 600 traffic lane miles of roads, 200 miles of sidewalks, 77 miles of open ditches and 123 miles of enclosed storm drains throughout the City. In addition, this Department was recognized with a “Trendsetter City” Award for 2019 by Arkansas Business for their efforts to put in digital software that reads traffic counts and trends digitally, resulting in increased efficiency and better data to drive decisions.
The engineering department completed 3,223 inspections, accepted 51 large scale development projects as complete. Notable projects included the completed update of the Bentonville GPS Monument Network, completed design and bid of the Little Sugar Streambank and Wetland Restoration Project, and completed the design of numerous sidewalk and drainage improvements to assist the street department.
In 2019 at the Bentonville Municipal Airport, the runway rehabilitation was completed. Taxiway connections to the Turf Runway were made, and the west terminal circular apron construction was completed. Additionally, on the west side of the airport, hangar infrastructure improvements were completed, as well as an additional parking lot. Design for the wetland removal area was also accomplished.
There is no more vital service provided by local government than Public Safety. The Police Department and Emergency Dispatch Center processed more than 77,000 calls for service, representing a significant increase over 2018 totals. On average, and for the 8th year in a row, the Police Department answered between three and four hundred additional calls each month as compared to the previous year’s monthly numbers, and over 14,000 9-1-1 cell phone calls were received at the police department’s Communications Center. Despite a steady increase in calls for service, there was NOT a notable increase in more serious crimes or crimes against persons. Overall, 2019 was consistent with previous years as there were no trends in criminal activity that should be cause for concern or impact the very safe community in which we live. One of the few more serious crimes recorded in 2019, a December homicide, resulted in the arrest of the suspect in less than 5 hours and is currently under investigation.
In 2019, the Bentonville Bomb Squad also finished its sixth year in a row with more than 30 bomb-related calls for service. Other activities for the Bomb Squad, such as dignitary details, special events, safety sweeps, and standby services, bring the total for 2019 to about 120 calls for service, up more than 20% from the previous year. The Bomb Squad received $177,000 in grants in 2019 that will be available in 2020 to be used in the purchase of several vital pieces of equipment, including a new x-ray system.
Fully staffed for 2019, our police department had 82 sworn officers and 34 professional staff members, comprising a total department with 116 full-time members. Three Police Officers and two Dispatchers were added in the 2019 budget. Two police officer positions were added midyear. One of these positions formed a partnership with the Legal Department to create a city investigator. The other position formed a partnership with the district court to enhance the capabilities of a bailiff position.
Our top accomplishment for 2019 was the completion of the Emergency Communications and Criminal Investigation Center. This facility does two things for our police department and our community. First and foremost, it creates a weather hardened dispatch center for Police and Fire with an integrated Emergency Operations Center that will function Citywide and area-wide. Second, the facility, along with the repurposing of certain areas in our existing facility, nearly doubles our previous working space and will accommodate decades of future growth.
Safety and Education
The Police Bike Team provided daily security on our city Trail System and in our Downtown area. A portable remote camera system was also developed that can be quickly deployed at any location or event.
Police and Fire Dispatchers once again implemented and completed a 9-1-1 education program for students in local elementary schools. In response to nationwide school security concerns, the Police Department continued a program to increase safety. For the seventh year in a row, officers performed numerous random school visits to provide an extra layer of protection in our schools.
Public Safety is also the responsibility of a great fire department.
Please join me in giving our fire department, our police department, and all those who save lives a big round of applause.
The Bentonville Fire Department had 16,530 calls for service in 2019, and reported no fire related deaths. A total of 5,534 ambulance calls were received, up 4.33%. The Department responded to 233 fires, up 3.5%. Station #7 was constructed in the southwest portion of town and completed within budget. Twelve additional personnel were hired for the opening of this station.
A new rescue truck was received and is being outfitted with equipment for service. Five power cots and loading systems were purchased completing this equipment being installed in all front-line ambulances. The Department also added five Toughbook computers to the ambulances for patient care reporting. Specifications were developed for a new Advanced Life Support (ALS) fire truck with an anticipated April 2020 delivery date.
The Fire Department implemented a new cancer prevention procedural policy and purchased fire-fighting gear to enhance cancer prevention. The City contracted with an outside grant-writing firm to assist in writing a SAFER Grant for increasing the staffing at the fire department.
Two fire inspectors were added to the Fire Marshal’s office to assist with new construction and preventive maintenance inspections for existing structures in the City. The Fire Marshal’s Division did 1,147 plan reviews, 1,562 new construction inspections, 1,827 existing structure inspections, 65 public education classes, 192 pre-development meetings, 273 code compliance reviews, and 24 fire investigations. 5,319 Bentonville Public School students were taught fire safety procedures during October for Fire Prevention Month.
In 2019, the City of Bentonville Legal Department handled 3,308 new criminal and traffic cases in Bentonville District Court, an increase of more than 17 percent from the 2018 caseload. Casework included arraignment, discovery, negotiation with defendants and defense counsel, plea hearings, case preparation and trials. The Department also prepared numerous ordinances and resolutions, reviewed hundreds of criminal cases for probable cause, provided legal and prosecution support for criminal investigations, prepared contracts for approval, negotiated land transactions and complex regulatory matters and consulted regularly with all City departments to provide guidance and risk management.
The Legal Department maintained its commitment to continuing education and innovation, attending the National Association of Drug Court Practitioners Conference on Treatment Courts, together with the DWI Court Team, including defense counsel, treatment providers, law enforcement and supervision. This year, the Department partnered with the Police Department to improve customer service and public safety by creating an investigator position designed to enhance victim and witness communication, conduct follow up reviews in pending cases, promote security, and assist all City departments with backgrounds, internal reviews and threat assessments. The Department also worked with District Court to implement progressive initiatives including online citation resolution and a Community Court program focused on treatment, education and service to the community.
Parks & Recreation
Bentonville Parks and Recreation’s Community Programs continue to grow in size and popularity with our citizens and visitors. In 2019, Parks and Recreation hosted 120 recreation programs involving more than 270,000 participants, with more than $4.4 million in revenue. Additionally, more than 490,000 people worked out, went swimming, or attended a community event at the Bentonville Community Center. Since opening, more than 2 million people have utilized the facility.
The full build-out of Citizens Park was completed with two major projects. In May, the Citizens Park Tennis Complex opened to the public. The 8-court complex features lights, restrooms, pavilions, water fountain and parking. Also included in the courts are eight pickleball courts to accommodate this rapidly growing sport. The final project at Citizens Park opened in October when we celebrated the Citizens Park Playground. This new structure is Bentonville’s very first inclusive playground. Since opening less than 90 days ago, this playground has already served thousands of kids and has quickly become a major attraction in our parks system.
In May, our team officially opened the Applegate Trail. The City’s section of the trail is a 1 mile segment connecting N.W. 3rd to N.W. 8th. However, it connects to a 2.5 mile privately owned segment meandering through the Coler Mountain Bike Park to create an impressive 3.5 mile trail. This section is the first completed segment of the future western trail line that will create an impressive 25 mile looped trail around our community. A special “Thank you” goes to the Trailblazers and the Walton Family for donating 100% of the costs of the trail and land.
A number of improvements were made to our sports fields in 2019. Phillips Park underwent a complete overhaul of the baseball infields to improve drainage and improved playing surfaces. New backstops were installed at Memorial Park. These improvements and others led to an impressive $3M Economic Impact for our local economy from sports tournaments.
Finally, Parks and Recreation kicked off three master planning phases for projects that will carry this Department into another generation of park experiences. The Quilt of Parks Master Plan, the Connecting Bentonville Bike and Pedestrian Plan, and the 8th Street Gateway Park Master Plan are underway with expectations to be presented to Council by the middle of 2020. There is no doubt our Parks and Recreation Department stays very busy maintaining and operating 28 parks, 4 facilities, and over 120 programs and events in our City throughout the year.
In 2019, Library visits and circulation reached new heights! Bentonville Public Library recorded 725,056 checkouts, a significant increase over 2018. Physical material checkouts increased by 5%, and e-book downloads grew 24%. Library visits increased to 319,697, demonstrating 6% growth. Program attendance totaled 65,021, with growth in children and adults’ regular program attendance.
Bentonville Public Library was one of fifty libraries nationwide selected to host the Thinking Money: A Financial Expedition exhibit. During the period February 10 through March 15, more than 3,000 patrons viewed the exhibit or attended exhibit related library events. Additionally, Bentonville Public Library presented the Fourth Annual Youth Literature Festival and First Annual GeekCon, featuring Free Comic Book Day. Both events realized record-number attendance. Bentonville Public Library co-hosted with Bella Vista Public Library “An Afternoon with Lisa Wingate.” The presentation kicked off the 2018 “If All Arkansas Read the Same Book” statewide tour.
Bentonville’s Literature Festival was reimagined in its fifth year to provide seasonal opportunities for readers of all ages to celebrate good stories and art. Bentonville Public Library hosted “A Visit with Delia Owens,” a N.Y. Times bestselling author. The presentation was part of the “If All Arkansas Read the Same Book” statewide tour.
Bentonville Public Library presented its Second Annual Bentonville GeekCon, featuring Free Comic Book Day. The event realized record-number attendance with 3,615 people visiting the Library, and was considered an “official event’ by Children’s Book Week. Bentonville Public Library’s Summer Reading Club participation increased in program attendance and physical checkout and digital downloads.
Bentonville Public Library was a designated site for Bentonville Schools’ and Aramark’s Summer Feeding Program. More than 7,360 free lunches were served to youth, with 1,160 Snack Packs distributed on Fridays by the Second Street Pantry Missions. During the summer, BPL volunteers participated in Walmart Gives NWA. The pilot project allowed Walmart to match volunteer hours with a monetary gift. The funds purchased iPad stations for teens and tweens, plus other library furnishings, through the Bentonville Library Foundation. The Library continued volunteer opportunities for junior partners, teens, adults, program presenters and corporate groups.
The Library debuted twelve new iPads for checkout and added new telescopes to meet high demand. Additionally, the Library expanded its shelving layout to make room for more materials, reupholstered several furnishings for patrons in the adult area, and was the recipient of a new donated conference table from Innovative Business Furniture.
The Library was one of fifty sites selected to host Thinking Money for Kids, a national traveling exhibit scheduled for display in spring 2021. BPL’s Tech Card program continues into its sixth year and began offering services to Adult Education students at Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC). The Walmart ROC Team again partnered for packet assembly and the group provided Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP) grant funds to the Bentonville Public Library Foundation to sponsor next year’s tech card program.
The Library selected 211 Café to lease the café space inside BPL. It opened in October. The Library began work on its strategic plan to guide library programs, services and operations for the next three years. Feedback from patrons, staff, and support groups was gathered through online surveys, open house sessions and facilitated group meetings.
BPL’s children’s librarian, Sue Pekel, was nationally recognized with the 2019 Peggy Sullivan Award. This award recognizes outstanding services to children and is given by the American Library Association. BPL librarians and library specialists continue strong leadership at local, state and national levels.
Planning and Building Services
The Planning Department continued to stay busy in 2019. The number of building permits issued was 1,750, up about 1% from 2018. The total valuation of all building permits was $454 million. Inspectors conducted 19,570 inspections.
This Department processed 250 projects in 2019. Planning Commission approved six preliminary plats with 448 lots and approved five final plats with 146 lots. They also approved 61 large-scale developments and 43 rezoning requests.
Building Services issued 505 residential permits totaling 1,074 units for 2019. Building Services issued certificates of occupancy for 1,671 residential units. This includes 461 single-family units and 1,210 multi-family units.
Staff uses certificate of occupancy data to estimate the population. Bentonville’s current population estimate is 52,871, an increase of 6.5% from 2018. Based on this estimate, nearly 8,800 new residents have moved into Bentonville over the last five years.
Looking ahead, the Planning Commission approved two large subdivisions in 2019. Preston Park, Phase 1 was final platted with 98 residential lots ready for building permits and Walnut Grove Subdivision was preliminary platted with 130 residential lots. A total of 534 multi-family residential units were approved in four large scale development projects. The largest multi-family project planned is City U, located at the old public works facilities on S.E. 3rd Street, with 375 units.
Commercial development appears to be on the rise. Building Services issued 197 commercial permits in 2019, an increase of nearly 20% over 2018. Similarly, completed commercial increased by 13% with 160 certificates of occupancy issued.
Planning Commission approved 32 commercial projects, up 33%
totaling 451,000 square feet. Projects included medical facilities, self-storage facilities, improvements at the municipal airport, and preparation for the Walmart Campus. One of the largest projects is a single industrial use warehouse on S.W. Regional Airport Boulevard with 260,000 square feet.
Amendments to the City’s zoning and development codes have become necessary with Bentonville’s fast-paced development and changing development types. These amendments eliminate conflicts within the code, use clearer language, and address current development trends.
In 2019 City Council adopted an ordinance amending the City’s Subdivision Code and renamed it the Land Development Code. City Council also adopted an ordinance amending the City’s Zoning Code.
To improve efficiency, Planning and Building Services made several changes in 2019. The most significant change is that building permit applications became available online through the eTrakit permitting system. This eases the application process and streamlines the review process.
Additionally, Planning and Building Services contracted with Selectron Technologies to set up a texting application that allows builders and contractors to schedule, reschedule, and cancel inspections and review inspection results at any time. The application will go live in early 2020.
The Planning division created a new waiver application process and now participates in the residential building permit review for downtown locations. They also are processing sign permit applications previously conducted by code enforcement. In addition, the Department now has three certified planners with a current staff member obtaining their American Institute of Certified Planners certification.
The Comprehensive Planning division of Planning and Building Services has worked on dozens of projects to improve Bentonville, including trees and landscaping, public art, and neighborhood organizing.
The City gave away 800 trees to 276 households during the Spring and Fall Tree Giveaways. The giveaways were made possible by the City’s Tree & Landscape Advisory Committee, the Bentonville Parks Conservancy, Steuart Walton, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Bentonville was recognized as a Tree City USA for the 21st consecutive year by spending at least $2 per capita on tree related expenditures, having an active tree board and an Arbor Day Celebration. Approximately 50 volunteers assisted with the City’s 7th Annual Tree Blitz by mulching and weeding at three city parks and trimming trees at two locations.
The Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee awarded two Grow with Tree awards to recognize those in the community that have made a direct impact on increasing and/or preserving Bentonville’s tree canopy. One award went to Legacy National Bank located at 2904 S Walton Blvd for preserving three old growth oak trees during construction. The other award went to Red Barn located at 1500 SW A Street for preserving most of the trees during construction and building in harmony with the natural environment.
The Tree and Landscape Advisory Committee awarded a Residential Landscaping Award to Greg and Andrea Placzek who reside at 501 NW A Street. The award recognizes residents who have improved and maintained the exterior landscaping of their homes.
Over the course of the year, 44 volunteers gave 131 hours by trimming 635 trees throughout the City resulting in over 16 work days of volunteer service.
Six active Adopt-A-Street groups, made up of approximately 50 volunteers, donated 60 hours of their time to pick up litter along their assigned city street.
The Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) approved three pieces of artwork in 2019: an interactive piece, a mural, and a sculpture.
Rainbow Springs was unveiled at Lawrence Plaza consisting of a series of acrylic tubes with LED light strips inside. When activated, the LED lights mathematically replicate the physics of gravity inviting people to play with the sculpture and explore the causal relationship between the lights and sensors. Rainbow Springs was created by Fayetteville maker Eugene Sargent in collaboration with the Scott Family Amazeum Creative team as part of the museum’s Maker in Residence Program. Visit Bentonville provided funding for this piece.
In the Spring, students from the Bentonville Schools Ignite Program designed and installed decade-themed murals on the basketball courts at Memorial Park. This project was funded by Runway NWA and the Walton Family Foundation.
After a call for proposals, the committee selected the artwork Open Heart by Mathew Duffy to be installed in the roundabout located at the intersection of S.W. Bright Road and S.W. Gator Boulevard. The eight-foot tall sculpture is an open-air heart design fabricated from aluminum diamond plate. The piece is funded by the Public Art Advisory Committee and will be installed Spring 2020.
Bentonville received the 2019 Arkansas Business Trendsetter Award in the tourism category for efforts to advance art in Bentonville. The PAAC, the Developer Art Kit, public art installations, partnerships, and four-year public art vision plan contributed to Bentonville receiving the award.
In Summer 2019, we kicked off a new initiative, the Great Neighborhood Partnership, to link core goals of transparency and improved communication with residents and the Community Plan’s goal of building stronger neighborhoods to provide a “great place to plant roots.” In 2020, we are unveiling the Block Party Trailer that provides tables, chairs and other supplies to help host a block party and get to know each other.
The City’s Taxi Punch Card Program provides transportation assistance to the elderly and those with disabilities. The program has 236 total riders. In 2019, a total of 13,164 punches were redeemed, amounting to $26,328 in transportation assistance. The program welcomed 25 new riders in 2019.
Comprehensive Planning also works to educate and inform residents about important issues and provide opportunities for public engagement.
For the seventh consecutive year, the City proclaimed October as Community Planning Month.
This is part of a national campaign sponsored by the American Planning Association with the goal to increase understanding of community planning. The City-sponsored an art poster contest to reflect the theme for 2019, Infrastructure that Benefits All. Elle Spencer, an eighth-grader at Fulbright Junior High School, submitted the winning artwork. A poster with her design is on display on the side of the Community Development building.
Planning also actively spoke with school groups about the planning profession and the ways in which planning impacts a community. They conducted planning commissioner training through the Arkansas Public Administration Consortium. And held a Developer’s Workshop to gather feedback on the planning review process.
In April, City Council approved a resolution to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau to support and encourage a complete count in the 2020 Census. They also approved a resolution to establish a Complete Count Committee in Bentonville to support the partnership. The committee consists of representatives from the community, school district, chamber of commerce, and the Salvation Army. They met three times in 2019 to identify focus areas and to develop a promotion plan. Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year, so please make sure you are included in the count.
The City hosted a series of meetings for each of the City’s four wards over the course of the year. Myself, City Council members, and city staff engaged approximately 325 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, and key city staff, learn about current, and future City initiated projects, ask questions, and learn about community resources.
The City also strives to make Bentonville more pet-friendly. And that commitment was recognized with a Better Cities for Pets designation through the MARS Petcare Program.
As I begin my 2nd year as your Mayor, I want you to know I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve the City of Bentonville. And, I continue to be extremely excited about the future of Bentonville. There is much to do as incredible opportunities lie ahead for our City. Bentonville is fiscally sound and filled with passionate people who want to work together to provide a vibrant, safe and clean city. City staff is focused on a collaborative team effort bringing people together and working together as we progress to find the best direction and solutions for Bentonville. As we grow, listening carefully, speaking clearly and respecting all will continue to guide our decisions.
We are focused on providing a high quality of life and reinforcing Bentonville’s identity as a welcoming community striving for excellence in safety, business, residence, recreation, and education.
In closing let me say, I truly love this City and I hope you do too. We value our residents and are committed to creating ways for resident to celebrate, to assist and create unique learning opportunities like our Citizen Police Academy and serving on City boards and commissions. I ask that you join with me, city staff, City Council, and area community and business groups get involved and make a difference in Bentonville. You can join volunteer groups or choose to serve on City appointed boards. You can start a Strong Neighborhood Program, get involved with our coming Animal Shelter, or volunteer at our Public Library. Contact my office and let me know of someone you think exemplifies the Spirt of Bentonville Award. I encourage you to be engaged and help others to serve. Find a place you can make a difference. I firmly believe the good people of this community will guide what I am certain will be a very bright future for the City of Bentonville. Let’s all commit to celebrate the successes, work through the challenges, and reach goals together as we strive to make Bentonville the Best Place in America to live, work, and play!
In closing, I want to take a minute to honor the lives of Marilyn Bogle and David Glass. Two of Bentonville’s finest who leave a long an honored legacy throughout our City. You do not have to look far to see their handprints representing their graciousness and love for our community. Honoring those that have come before us, served their community well, and laid the groundwork for a successful City is something that I cannot say thank you enough for. On behalf of the City of Bentonville, our sincere condolences go out to their families.
We, all of us together, are a City of hope, innovation, and opportunity because of all of you who make a difference in a truly wonderful City we are fortunate to call our home.
Thank you all ~ may God continue to bless our City, Northwest Arkansas and the United States of America!
Mayor Stephanie Orman
City of Bentonville