Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan said the state of the city is sound despite an incredibly difficult past nine months.
Jordan said 2020 was the most challenging year he’s faced during his time in office, and said he knows the people of Fayetteville have felt those challenges deeply as well.
“We have watched the COVID-19 pandemic turn our lives upside down,” he said. “Nearly all our normal daily activities have been affected. We have lost loved ones. We have changed our social behaviors and family traditions to keep each other safe.”
He said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak has put a serious strain on nearly all businesses in town, especially those that are small and locally owned. Many residents are also hurting financially because of reduced hours or lost jobs, he said.
But the pandemic was only responsible for part of the stress, said Jordan, who noted an upswell of social unrest because of racism and racial injustices.
“All of us have had to confront uncomfortable truths about the historical mistreatment of African Americans and the inequalities experienced by all people of color across this country,” he said.
Despite it all, Jordan said he believes the past year has shown that Fayetteville is stronger and more resilient than ever before.
“When other cities were erupting in violent protests, our community served as a model for peaceful, safe and cooperative demonstrations of free speech and assembly,” he said.
Jordan said the administration focused mostly on taking quick and thoughtful action around the pandemic and moving bond projects forward.
Fayetteville was one of the first cities in the state to take proactive COVID-19 measures such as masking, reduced capacity and virtual public meetings. The city also helped 160 households avoid utility shut-off or eviction through the Community Development Block Grant rental and utility assistance program, he said.
City services were uninterrupted throughout the year, and bond projects injected more than $40 million into the local economy thanks to the city getting 45 projects underway as part of the first phase of the voter-approved bond package.
Jordan gave an overview of several key milestones and achievements over the past year of bond work, including street work, trail improvements, drainage upgrades, stream restoration and parkland acquisition.
The street bond program includes over 20 projects. The city recently completed a Rupple Road extension, began work on improvements to Zion Road and made progress on all three segments of the 71B Corridor project.
Design of the Hamestring Creek trail bridge is complete and construction is set to begin this year, he said. Design work on the Midtown Corridor trail is underway, and construction on the Tsa La Gi trail across Razorback Road is also coming this year.
A new soft-surface trail opened at Kessler Mountain Regional Park, and a synthetic turf on four existing infields was installed. Bids were opened last month for the next phase of the park, which includes a new baseball complex and additional parking.
Trails were also unveiled at Centennial Park as crews began design work on a pavilion and restrooms in preparation for the park’s planned hosting of the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships.
Two projects aimed at making the historic downtown square even more inviting for residents and visitors are either underway or set to begin soon. Starting in February the square gardens will see some enhancements, including new lighting. Updates to the Town Center plaza have already begun and include masonry improvements and waterproofing for retaining walls and planters, power and lighting upgrades and a snow melt system built into a completely new walkway.
Ground was broken last fall on the Fay Jones woods phase of the Cultural Arts Corridor project. Jordan said he hopes to soon bring a contract to the City Council on the purchase of land for a replacement parking deck at the Depot Lot on West Avenue and Dickson Street. If the Council approves the contract, construction could begin this spring.
The police facilities construction bond includes a new headquarters for the Fayetteville Police Department that Jordan said will address the many deficiencies of the current police station building. Two new fire stations are also in the works – one on the public safety campus off Deane Street and Porter Road and one on South School Avenue near Cato Springs Road.
“Like you, I am anxious to see the end of this terrible pandemic,” said Jordan. “I am ready to see an end to the ever-increasing number of deaths in our community. I am ready to see businesses reopening, people going back to work and families celebrating holidays together. We must keep working together to make that happen. We must keep following safety guidelines and looking out for each other as the vaccination program reaches more people.
“My friends, the past year has been incredibly challenging for all of us. We’re not through this pandemic yet, but I hope – and I believe – that better days are ahead.”