MEDC talks sales tax numbers; honors Barnes for years of service


The Monticello Economic Development Commission held its June meeting at noon on Wednesday, June 5. Chairman Bennie Ryburn, III called the meeting to order and presented the minutes from the May meeting. The minutes were reviewed and approved. The commissioners also reviewed and approved May’s financial reports.

Ryburn presented his opening remarks next. County sales taxes collected in May totaled $548,822 which was up from the $531,071 collected during the same time last year. The City of Monticello collected $260,608 in May versus $248,000 last year. Lottery sales in Drew County were $413,000 for May. The unemployment rate for the county is currently 3.9 percent, with 7,364 people out of the 7,663 in the labor force being employed.

MEDC Director Nita McDaniel presented her report. McDaniel stated that her office has been incredibly busy in the area of recruiting new businesses. She stated that Project No. 0110 had an internal meeting in May, and they have decided to put off any decision until sometime in November. McDaniel noted that even though they put off the decision, the intensity and frequency of the prospect’s correspondence has increased.

“I promise you, they aren’t done with us,” McDaniel said. “We are working hard to respond and give them the information that they need.”

Project No. 320 had an RFI submitted on March 27, but there are no updates to report at this time.

Since the May meeting a new prospect has reached out to McDaniel’s office. This prospect has been given information on the Speculative Building. Another prospect was also given information on the Spec Building on May 30.

An additional business has contacted McDaniel as well. This was referred to as a “non-traditional” business. The prospect wants to find a site with approximately 30 acres.

The Scogin Drive project is going well. As of May 13, the project is 48.2 percent complete. The contractors have only used 33.7 percent of their contract time so far.

The Intermodal Authority met on May 15. They have $108,000 remaining in Federal Highway Administration funding which was awarded to complete three or four projects in the past. The board voted to use these funds to pave the new part of the access road that joins the railroad crossing. This request has been submitted to the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT).

The Arkansas Historic Preservation Society has awarded the city’s grant to repair the roof of the historic post office. The grant award is $59,492, and the city is responsible for $29,746 in match funds.

In the next order of business, Ryburn presented Kimbraly Barnes, retiring Drew Central Superintendent, with a Certificate of Recognition for her seven years of service to the MEDC.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute and I appreciate all of your support for the Pirate Nation, the City of Monticello, and Drew County,” Barnes said. “It’s been a great experience and a great learning experience as well. I look forward to continuing to work for Monticello and Drew County.”

University of Arkansas at Monticello Chancellor Dr. Peggy Doss was pleased to announce that National Park College and UAM Campus within a Campus partnership was going well. So well, in fact, a four-year nursing degree was added on May 4.

The Wingate Foundation granted UAM $750,000 to renovate the “Red Barn” and turn it into an art studio and classroom space.

UAM also received $934,142 in grant funding to renovate the Visual and Performing Arts Center. A new roof will be put on the building as well as a new HVAC system, exterior painting, and several other projects to improve the exterior appearance of the building.

They also received an additional $45,000 to continue renovating the Trotter House, as well as $34,000 in additional funding to do more work on the 1937 House.

Baptist Health Medical Center-Drew County President Scott Barrilleaux was on hand to give an update on what has been going on at the hospital. The month of May saw 53 babies delivered at the hospital. This is the most deliveries in a single month that the hospital has ever had. Barrilleaux noted that the financial performance of the hospital continues to improve. He also added that physician recruitment is looking promising.

“Everything seems to be going well,” Barrilleaux said. “The merger is getting further and further in our rearview mirror, and we are looking out the front windshield at what the future will bring.”

Barnes gave an update on Drew Central Schools. As usual, construction is underway, which is good because that means the district continues to grow. The district is looking to re-stripe existing parking spaces and add additional parking spaces. Many students are currently attending a variety of summer camps.

Mayor Jason Akers gave a brief update on projects that are going on in the City of Monticello. He reported that due to the completion of the West Plant Aeration Project, the city is no longer out of compliance with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. He also noted that once the Headworks Project at the West Plant was completed, the facility would be state-of-the-art. The mayor also noted that Lake Monticello was opened on May 31, for catch-and-release fishing. He encourages Monticellonians to go out and enjoy “the most underutilized resource Monticello has.”

The MEDC will meet again on Wednesday, July 3, at noon.