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  • Writer's pictureMayor Dan Kees

State of the City of Holiday Island

State of the City of Holiday Island


Let me begin with an apology and a correction. I neglected to provide a “State of the City” message in January. I apologize for that. The reason for the delay was that I wanted to be able to correct something I said in December that I thought was the case at the time but later found to be a bit premature. In December I indicated that we had an agreement with the County to provide two deputies to patrol Holiday Island and that we had a District Court agreement so we could start prosecuting code violation cases. At that time, we and the County were in agreement on the contract, however, when the new sheriff came on board in January, he wanted to take another look at the monthly fee. It took the county several weeks to review the issue but I can now report that we have the agreement signed and in place. It will take a few more weeks to staff the 2nd position and for the city to purchase the patrol vehicle for the county. However, over the next couple of months, we should see additional patrolling in Holiday Island.


Relative to the cost sharing agreement with Eureka Springs on the operation of the Eureka Springs Department of District Court, in December, I had a signed agreement with Eureka Springs in hand. However, we ran into an issue with the agreement relative to the wording of the law. The law states that if a city has a police department but does not have their own Department of District Court, they can enter into a cost sharing agreement with another city. There was concern that our contracting with the county to provide law enforcement services, which is allowed by law as an option to having a police department, did not fulfill the “police department” requirement to cost share a district court. I have provided the attorneys with examples of other cities such as Yellville and Horseshoe Bend that contract with their respective counties just like we are and have a district court. Our task now is to convince all parties that having a sheriff contract meets the intent of the law. Our city attorney and the attorneys at the Municipal League agree with us and I hope to have this resolved soon.


Financial Health:

We ended 2022 in a solid financial position. General Fund revenue was $308,886 vs. a budget of $285,672 after excluding a $37,000 carry forward of 2021 revenue. Expenses were $146,481 vs. a budget of $271,612. Underspending was primarily due to the fact that we budgeted funding a deputy in 2022 which did not happen. Plus, timing on implementing code enforcement, district court and building code enforcement resulted in reduced spending.

Street Fund revenue was $348,076 vs. a budget of $278,189. The increase in revenue was due to the fact that we received the county property tax for roads from 2021 as well as 2022. Expenses were $326,887 vs. an original budget of $265,000. The excess spending was due to dramatic cost increases in paving costs associated with the $607,000 paving of a portion of Stateline Drive and all of Hawk Drive. $300,000 of the project was covered by a grant from the State. The Street Fund budget was amended to reflect the change in the project.


Fund balances at the end of the year were $192,655 in the General Fund, $166,613 in the Street Fund and $75,000 in the General Fund Reserve.


Growth:

In 2021, the city took over responsibility for issuing building permits and we brought on board a building inspector. Holiday Island had been without a building inspector for many years. A year of experience has proven how necessary this function is relative to assisting contractors in being up to date on the latest codes, being another set of eyes observing potential problems during the construction phase, and protecting the homeowners and possibly the contractors from potential costly future problems.


In 2022, the city issued 27 building permits. 13 were for new homes, 2 were for commercial construction and 12 were for garages, renovations and extensions to homes. While no data is collected on the actual value of all this construction, the estimated value would be in the range of $4.6 million.


With interest rates and construction costs where they are, we would expect new housing starts in 2023 to slow some. However, Holiday Island continues to be a great value for people relocating from other high cost regions of the country.


Code Enforcement:

Without a District Court to process citations, the city was limited in what it could accomplish in 2022 relative to code enforcement which has been very frustrating. Our code enforcement officer did get a couple of property owners and residents to voluntarily clean up their property and one property owner took action to evict a resident responsible for serious and chronic problems. Once the District Court agreement is in place in 2023, we intend to aggressively go after other serious and chronic problems with trash and junk piling up in yards and poorly maintained properties. We have had numerous complaints about these properties so the negative impact on security, safety, property values and the general well being of our residents and property owners is well documented.


Public Safety (law enforcement, fire protection and emergency response):

In 2023, the city is taking over responsibility for law enforcement in Holiday Island. With the addition of a 2nd deputy, we should be able to focus more attention on traffic, primarily speeding in residential areas, and have more visibility in areas of the city where criminal activity could otherwise go on unabated. And unfortunately, Holiday Island is not immune from the potential for that kind of activity.


With the city taking over law enforcement, the Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District is able to direct more resources to emergency response. As Fire Chief Randy Ates reports, Holiday Island has experienced a 56% overall increase in calls for service when compared to 10 years ago. Chief Ates recently made a presentation relative to the improvements the fire department must make over the next several months in order to maintain our ISO rating. The city has an interlocal agreement with HISID to provide fire protection and although HISID operates the fire department and provides the majority of the funding, the city will participate to whatever extent possible in executing the improvement plan. For more information on Fire and EMS, please go to www.holidayisland.us and read Chief Ate’s report for 2022.


Roads:

In 2022, the city was able to utilize a $300,000 grant from the State Aid to Streets program to do a 2” asphalt overlay of 1.7 miles of Stateline Drive and 1.6 miles of Hawk Drive. The total cost of the project was $607,000 with $307,000 coming from fuel tax revenue the city receives from the State and a share of the county’s property tax for roads. In conjunction with the project, the city assumed right of way responsibility for Stateline Drive and Hawk Drive and is paying HISID annually to maintain those roads.

The city has applied for another $300,000 grant from the State to pave the last half mile of Stateline Drive from Holiday Island Drive to Woodsdale Drive and all of Woodsdale Drive. Looking forward for the next couple of years, the priority for the city will be to make sure the main routes, those roads that carry 100% of the traffic in and out of Holiday Island and are the primary routes for school busses and emergency vehicles, are well maintained.


Summary:

In summary, I can say that the state of Holiday Island is good. Yes there are still problems and challenges. And things don’t always happen at the pace we wish. But in general, the partnership between the City and the District is working as planned. During a period of hyperinflation which has driven up the cost of providing services, Holiday Island residents and property owners have been isolated from increases in any City imposed tax or District assessments all while actually improving some of those services. I see our future as being very positive.

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