3 Keys to the Future
We have great opportunities to move our city forward in the future, but it’s going to take a collective effort from everyone to see major progress. We have identified three areas of focus to best accomplish this. 1. Community maintenance, 2. Planning, and 3. Communication are the areas where we need to get everyone on the same page. Even though all three areas of emphasis are separate, they are also all interrelated.
1. Community maintenance is something we can all do to build pride in our community and lift the standard by which we live. This will start with leadership. As a city, we have not set the bar as high as it needs to be with community maintenance. This includes maintaining city-owned properties at a much higher standard, keeping roads up to par, removing condemned structures and maintaining any property under control of the city. Citizens can help by doing the same for their own individual properties and businesses and helping in their neighborhoods. The more people involved in maintaining their communities, the more likely they are to invest in it. One community maintenance project that is already underway is the Nix Creek Project. In late July, Public Works contracted a project that involves clearing overgrowth on the creek and will continue that work this fall based on recommendations from an engineering study funded by the City Board of Directors who approved $750,000 for this study and any construction resulting from it. The engineering study identified two major priorities: large sediment deposits and bank erosion. Repairing these damages will improve drainage and make Nix Creek a sustainable storm-water path to service our growth. In addition to storm water management, the city has also recently received the results of an engineering study regarding current conditions of all our city roads. This will help staff and the Board of Directors prioritize which roads need to be repaired or redone with future budgets and federal funding from the ARPA and infrastructure funds.
2. Planning is essential in building a prosperous future for our city. Nothing happens overnight, but if you do not know where you want to go, and you have no plan to get there, you won’t end up anywhere. The city is working on a defined plan with set goals and a clear vision. It will take a combination of short-term and long-term goals and plans to best utilize the resources we have available to us. Working with the City Planner and the Texarkana, Arkansas Planning Commission, we will take proposals from different consultants to help develop an update to our comprehensive master plan for the city. This study will take 18 to 24 months to complete and will involve open forums, workshops and citizen meetings to help establish a future design for our city moving forward based on the needs of our community. This plan will eventually be presented to the Board of Directors by the City Manager and adopted.
Another area of planning the city is currently engaged in is creating an A-1 mixed use zone to allow for limited commercial use in rural areas. Such diverse activities allowed in wedding and event venues and sales onsite for orchards, blueberry farms, and honey, open opportunities to make the most of this great resource of rural land. So, fish farms, natural product sales and the other land uses envisioned by the entrepreneurs of Texarkana will be possible for those with the energy and vision to succeed at home! The A-1 zone also expands on the residential factor to allow property with at least ten acres to have a second home without platting the property. We hope this new zone will meet the needs of generations of families and individuals to grow and thrive in our city in its lovely rural settings.
Recent planning success also includes the adoption of the Downtown Entertainment District. This zone, instituted last year, is already showing signs of economic success, and we hope the A-1 zone will as well.
3. Communication is the key to bringing the city together in a collective effort. Citizens should know the efforts the city is making towards community maintenance or accomplishing goals set forth in the city plan. Everyone also needs to be well informed of the challenges facing the city. An informed public with realistic expectations can only be achieved with great communication. Improved communication will bring more participation in the local governing process. We plan to create more transparency and attempt to bring forth important information to the public using media outlets at our disposal. This includes informative videos on current and future projects and information regarding city services and how they work.
We recently released videos on our Facebook, YouTube and Government Access Channel covering the current and future status of the Nix Creek Project, the newly proposed A-1 Business District, and a video informing citizens of how to take advantage of our city recycling center. This type of video will become a quarterly occurrence, including informative videos from our police department that will cover a wide range of topics, from crime statistics to community involvement. The goal is to further expand these videos to other departments in the future. We hope to ensure the streaming of our public meetings is consistent and easy to access, and to use social media to make the public aware of any construction or non-routine maintenance occurring. We want citizens to be informed about how to access city services and how to report a problem easily.
Finally, we are excited about current developments that will impact our residents. The new animal adoption center, containing over 30 kennels, will house only “ready for adoption” animals, while the existing shelter will house incoming strays. This will create a better experience for those looking to adopt animals. The Recreational (Rec) Center (formerly the Boys & Girls Club), which is only a few weeks from completion, will offer physical fitness and activities for seniors during the day and an after-school program for our youth. The Rec center will allow access to meeting rooms, a computer lab, a commercial kitchen and a gymnasium. Both great facilities will be operational by this fall. We hope to maximize the potential of these great resources, adding to the quality of life for the City of Texarkana, Arkansas residents.