2021 State of the City
The year 2021 was a year of progress for our city despite the ongoing constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic. We met the challenges as well as embraced the opportunities.
Our Animal Services Department completed its 109th consecutive month without euthanizing adoptable pets. The department offers programs to continue placing animals, including the barn cat program, trap-neuter-return program, and numerous adoption events and opportunities. Through the generous donations of the department’s caring supporters, the Frannie Fund is now in its 15th year. In 2021, the fund provided financial assistance for five dogs to receive heartworm treatment. Supporters of this lifesaving program donated $3,070, and the fund paid out $1,250 for medical treatments. The Spay/Neuter Assistance Discount Voucher Program provided 23 low-income pet owners with low or no-cost spay/neuter services for their pets at the cost of just $1,105.
The 2020 Census official count for the City of Sherwood was 32,731 compared to the 2010 Census official count of 29,523, an 11% increase. It is a common belief across the state that Covid-19 impaired the census numbers.
CITY CLERK’S OFFICE
The City Clerk’s Office had an exceptionally busy year. Our City Clerk and staff attended several Arkansas Municipal League virtual meetings regarding the expenditure of ARPA funds and grant funding. The city ended the year in good financial standing, with sales tax revenue coming in well over budget. The online payment function implemented in early 2021 has been successful for business licenses, liquor tax, and A & P restaurant taxes. Another feature added was the ability to pay donations for the Trail of Lights with Square. This feature will also be used for other city events.
ENGINEERING, PERMITS, AND PLANNING
The Engineering Department was fully involved in the 2018 Street Bonds Projects. All projects identified to be funded from the first bond issue of $22.1 million were engineered, bid, and placed under construction contracts. The East Maryland Widening Project and East Maryland Extension Project were more than 20% complete by year-end.
Construction companies were onsite with mobilization and preliminary activities for the Hemphill Road Improvements Project and Country Club Street and Drainage Improvements Project. A contract was in place for Jacksonville-Cato Road Improvements Phase 1.
Engineering and GIS supported the Public Works Department in finalizing a public-private partnership with local developers. Our collaboration was established to extend wastewater collection infrastructure from the Runyan Acres Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Public Works Facility on Jacksonville-Cato Road and across the property to serve new housing construction. The engineering assistant and inspector ensured that preconstruction agreements with neighboring property owners were being met.
A preliminary study evaluating the creation of a Stormwater Utility began in late 2021. GIS supported all city departments, the city council, and the mayor with mapping services. GIS performed analysis to support redistricting of wards in the city of Sherwood following results of the 2020 Census. We also filled the city planner position.
The Biking and Pedestrian Master Plan progressed through Task Orders 1, 2, and 3, and we started Task Order 4 at the end of the year. Once the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan is complete, we will use it to identify and manage the rehabilitation of existing trails and create new trails and on-street biking facilities to support current needs and future growth.
The Planning, Permitting, and Inspections Departments experienced another busy year. Two new building inspector positions were approved. Total permits issued for 2021 were 1,007, with a construction value of $75,129,331.
The Human Resources office manages employment-related matters for more than 300 full-time and part-time employees. In 2020, we processed 35 new full-time employees and 34 new part-time employees. Additionally, we processed 637 applications in 2021. Although we did not have a Health Fair in 2021, we were again able to conduct a successful “drive-by” flu clinic, where more than 100 employees were vaccinated. COVID-19 continued to be a recurring theme for the Human Resources Department and the city and Nation. Every department was affected by COVID. Those employees that remained at work and whose health or family’s health was not affected did a marvelous job maintaining city services even with a decrease in staff.
Our Information Technology Department continues to make improvements. Early in the year, a programmer position was eliminated as we have moved away from self-written applications. Security has had a significant push, and the city has seen various improvements. The city now has Next-Gen, Enterprise level firewalls at most locations. These improvements allow for improved connectivity, control, and reporting across the city’s network infrastructure. The city now has a more advanced anti-virus on the servers, which employs AI to track and destroy malicious activity supported by a 24/7 SOC (Security Operations Center). The city has also updated to a VOIP phone system, improving call quality and connectivity between City Hall and the Police Department. The connectivity will extend to the Barbara Collier building soon and include other facilities in the future. The IT Department has continued implementing a PC rotation schedule and upgrading the city’s PC infrastructure. We hired a new IT assistant to provide improved support and efficiency near the end of the year. Continued improvements are slated for 2022, which will significantly impact our city. This impact should have a considerable positive effect on internal connectivity and collaboration.
PARKS & RECREATION
Overall, 2021 was a good year. An increase in participation over 2020 has been experienced almost universally. Outdoor activities continue to rise as people learn that parks boost their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Youth sports have continued to increase in participation as well. Soccer, baseball, softball, swimming, tennis, golf, basketball, and wrestling have all seen growth in registration this year. Smaller room rentals are up as compared to 2020, and it seems that people are comfortable meeting in smaller groups. For example, room rentals at the Harmon Recreation Center have increased more than 40%.
Sherwood Fest was held for the second time at the Sports Complex in September. Attendees enjoyed a full day of entertainment, including dance groups, circus acts, bands, carnival rides, food trucks, castle building contest, 5K fun run and 1-mile pet walk, and more than 45 vendors. Several residents and guests attended the event.
“City Hallow” made its inaugural debut at City Hall on Oct. 30. The new version of the city’s annual Halloween carnival featured a floating pumpkin patch from which patrons could buy a pumpkin to decorate, a few vendors, and the movie “Hocus Pocus” at sundown. The event was well-attended, and many ideas have been discussed for the future.
The Christmas Parade was held the first Saturday in December with high attendance numbers. Spectators enjoyed seeing more than 45 parade entries that included floats, dance squads, classic cars, heavy equipment, marching bands, etc. Betty Barnhardt, outgoing founder and leader of Keep Sherwood Beautiful, was the Grand Marshal.
The Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights was held in November and December with a few changes. The significant difference was moving the entrance to Dee Jay Hudson Drive, and it was received very well and made it easier for Sherwood Police to manage traffic. The department added an opt-in text message to provide direct communication with customers, and the City Clerk’s office added an online donation option. Over 22,900 cars attended this event.
The year 2021 was an excellent year for the Sherwood Police Department. We saw a lot of change that was sometimes sad, but it brought new ideas, policies, and goals. It was the end of an extraordinary term of service by Chief James Bedwell, to which we will always be grateful for the years of service and legacy that he left for the Sherwood Police Department. Since Chief Jeff Hagar took the helm of our Police Department in January 2021 after serving the city since 1997, the department has experienced several staff changes, equipment upgrades and a decrease in overall crime rates. The City of Sherwood was also named by Safety.com as the safest city to live in Arkansas.
In 2021 we began the year with 72 officers and nine openings; we had 11 dispatchers with two openings and nine clerks with one opening.
Over the year, we lost two of those clerks’ positions to the Courts (Cashiers), we gained two officers positions and three dispatch positions. We also gained two civilian management positions — Communications Center Manager and Support Services Manager. In 2021 we hired 20 people (13 police, six communications, and one clerk), we lost 22 people (13 police, seven communications, and two clerks). As we enter 2022, we currently stand seven openings down in the patrol division, six positions down in the communications center, and two positions down in our clerks. Hopefully, we will get these positions filled this year and get to full staff.
We were very fortunate in 2021 to be able to purchase ten vehicles and get them upfitted. With the assistance of our new grant writer position, we were able to obtain a grant that, supplemented by the Courts, will allow us to automate and upfit all of our patrol vehicles with E-cite. E-cite is a program that computer-generates and populates the court’s records, automatically entering all tickets written by Sherwood Officers.
The E-cite system will save time and money and save the city of Sherwood thousands of dollars in upfit costs. We were also very fortunate to receive the Lenco Bearcat, which the City Council appropriated in 2020. This year, the vehicle came in and has added much-needed armor protection for our SWAT Team. It was also used for water rescues during the flooding in the early fall of 2021.
Three patrolman positions were approved to become sergeant’s positions in 2021. Along with the civilian manager roles, this will allow us to reduce the span of control for supervisors within the Sherwood Police Department, more closely supervise and develop employees and hopefully make a more productive force. The civilian managers will allow for more continuity in their respective areas and provide more suitable supervision for civilian employees.
We finished the year with 7,851 traffic stops, resulting in 1,660 citations issued. There were also 1,287 arrests made for various felony and misdemeanor offenses. We received 101,548 non-emergency phone calls in 2021 and 15,727 emergency phone calls via the 911 system. These calls resulted in 42,649 calls for service that our officers answered and, as a result, generated 5,278 written incident reports. The overall crime rate was down 2% in 2021 over the previous year.
The Public Works Department provides our residents with outstanding service in collecting household sanitation and extra pick-up items. A total of 25,119 cubic yards of yard debris, 3,750 cubic yards of leaves, 9,553 tons of household garbage, and 792 loads of junk were collected to serve our residents’ needs. Sherwood’s residential sanitation customers increased by 261 in 2021, and residents requested and received 132 additional garbage containers and 37 additional recycling containers. The leaf vacuums began pick-up Nov. 1, 2021, covering the city five times, and will end on Jan. 31, 2022.
The overlay project expended $1,089,296.69 for 2021, resurfacing almost four miles. The department purchased a new mini excavator for the Street Department and one new pickup truck, and two new sideload sanitation trucks and one boom truck are on order.
The Jack Evans Senior Center provides transportation for our seniors throughout the year and maintains contact with our participants via telephone. Staff logged more than 8,000 phone calls while checking on our seniors. The city contributes $25,000 to Meals on Wheels for our seniors who benefit. Our monthly potlucks have historically been one of the most attended monthly events. In 2021, the staff prepared and served several luncheon meals to our seniors to help fill the void. Our seniors were very excited to return to the senior center. Our center is a place where many enjoy hours of fellowship. We hope to continue to be able to provide more opportunities.
Our city continues to improve financially. The city received the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds of more than $3.2 million, with another $3.2 million to be deposited in July 2022. Our revenue collections exceeded our projections. At the close of 2021, our General Fund balance on deposit was $12,917,056. The ARPA funds are in addition to the General Fund balance. At the close of 2020, our General Fund balance on deposit was $8,586,469. At the close of 2019, our General Fund balance on deposit was $5,702,910. Our city continues to grow. We look forward to 2022 and believe that 2022 will be an outstanding year.