A series of projects including developing a strategy to attract more industry to Pine Bluff, reinstating the Civil Service Commission and looking at the possibility of letting city residents resolve issues online are just some of the things Mayor Debe Hollingsworth hopes to accomplish this year.
During her State of the City address Monday night, Hollingsworth said she had asked members of the Pine Bluff City Council for a list of things they would like to see done this year, based on what their constituents said.
The list also included using the city’s source of water (ports, river) more effectively; complete cleaning of bushes from vacant lots, more street lights in some neighborhoods, reopening the Merrill Center for afterschool programs, developing private funding for the summer youth program and hosting a forum for contractors and other small businesses and develop ways to remove roadblocks or activities that are viewed as making it difficult to do business with the city.
“As you can see, these projects are attainable,” Hollingsworth said. “However, it will take the Mayor’s Office, City Council, organizations and individuals coming together to make it happen.”
During the address, Hollingsworth also outlined some of the success stories from 2012, including additional funding for the summer youth hiring program that allowed the city’s Human Resources Department to hire 120 to 125 young people for summer jobs last year. The mayor said the goal this year is to hire between 150 and 200 young people, thanks to additional money from the council.
“We anticipate this will be our largest summer youth program,” Hollingsworth said.
Talking about Pine Bluff Transit, the mayor said the department received an award from the Federal Transit Administration Region VI for having the highest percentage increase in ridership in the region, which includes Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
An intensive bus-operator training program and passenger awareness campaign is planned this year, and a grant from the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department will allow the city to begin installation of a new vehicle wash facility that will be energy- and ecologically efficient.
Hollingsworth said Pine Bluff Animal Control hopes to increase the department’s revenue by 20 percent this year through pet registrations, pet placement programs and aggressive animal law enforcement. The five-eighths-cent sales tax initiative also will allow the department to work with other departments in planning for the construction of a new facility.
The sales tax initiative was also mentioned by Hollingsworth when she talked about the Fire and Emergency Services Department, noting that the department was able to add three new fire trucks last year, remodel two stations and break ground for a new Station Three that will be located at 32nd Avenue and Beech Street.