MEDC passes 2024 budget; approves audit findings


The Monticello Economic Development Commission met on Wednesday, February 7, at the Monticello Country Club. Commission Chair, Bennie Ryburn, III opened the meeting by stating that the lotto sales for Drew County totaled $447,480 last month. Sales tax collection for the city of Monticello was $251,481, which is up a little over $400 from the same time last year. County tax collection was down $9,300 from last year totaling $537,186.

MEDC Director, Nita McDaniel gave her report next. She noted that there are three active prospects on the recruitment side. Project No. 0110 has kept her and her staff extremely busy, and continues to do so. There have been several virtual meetings since they had their site visit. The relationship continues to trend in a positive direction. A lot is going on with this prospect, but it is progressing nicely and McDaniel said that she is pleased with the progress.

Project No. 516 and No. 602 both remain active, but there have been no changes to report.

The Jordan Drive and Scogin Drive projects haven’t had any new activity to report. Construction continues and everything is going well.

The Intermodal Board will meet on February 21. The board will discuss $108,000 in leftover funds from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT). These funds were left over from the projects that put in the access road and handling areas.

McDaniel added that communication with the consultants for the expansion at SeaArk Boats continues. She said that everything is going as it should.

McDaniel and representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) have been working with Alleguard on their on-the-job training program. They are still working on fine-tuning the program, but are looking forward to fully launching it and being able to offer the same to other businesses in the future.

McDaniel added that retail recruitment is going well. The biggest problem she sees in the area is having available spaces to meet propect needs. Several prospects want to locate in Monticello but need larger spaces, which are not available at this time.

“On all fronts, things are going really well, as far as new businesses coming into our city,” McDaniel said. “It’s an exciting time to be in Monticello and Drew County. There’s a lot of really good things going on.”

McDaniel stated that the Historic Post Office’s roof is still leaking. Brown’s Roofing has given her estimates, and Brown says that he can patch the roof which should give the MEDC approximately three years. This would give them time to get through the grant process with the Historic Preservation Society. Once this process is completed they would look at putting a new roof on the building.

McDaniel also said that she submitted a nomination to Lowes Hometown Program on behalf of the Drew County Historic Society. If selected, this would help to fund the necessary repairs for the Drew County Museum. Winners of the program should be announced in June.

The members of the commission were then presented with the 2024 budget. It was reviewed and passed unanimously.

The commissioners also voted to accept the audit results as submitted by Searcy and Associates.

Ryburn notified the commission that Mayor Jason Akers has signed a work order with an engineering firm for an airport project that will run in the mid $300,000 range. This project will repair any cracks and re-seal the asphalt on the apron and taxiway of the airport. There will also be new striping painted in these areas.

Dr. Peggy Doss, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM), reported that classes began in January, but were extremely disrupted by the winter weather the area experienced.

“I can’t say enough positive things about how our staff worked during that time,” Dr. Doss said. “They worked virtually to make sure students got the services that they needed and to make sure that business operations were able to carry on. They forwarded office phones to their cell phones. The team pulled together. As a result, the Spring semester not only met budget but slightly exceeded it.”

Most universities see a reduction in the number of enrollments in the Spring semester.

“This is the first time in many, many years that there wasn’t a decline in enrollment for the Spring semester,” Doss said.

The meeting was then adjourned until their stated meeting in March.