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Update on road work, economy, volunteers

The County Road Department has completed the following since the first of the year:

Tons of gravel 98,511 tons, goal 160,000 tons

4” + gravel/drainage improvements, 34.3 miles, goal 61

Asphalt overlay 4 miles

Chip & Seal overlay 22 miles

Total feet of Culverts 4,546 feet, goal 5,000 feet

Chip & Seal was scheduled to begin the week of Aug. 12, 2013.

Since the last report, we have had an EF-2 tornado that effected Van Buren County on April 10. This caused total or heavy damage to a total of 70 residences, one church, and one volunteer fire station. Thankfully there was no loss of life and just one over-night hospitalization.

On May 30, a flood occurred in the northern part of Van Buren and Cleburne counties and the southern parts of Stone and Searcy counties.

Reports of 6 to 8 inches of rain within three to four hours caused many roads and several culverts to be seriously washed out. Again, we had no loss of life or serious injuries.

These two disasters have cost the County Road Department an estimated cost of $650,000 and approximately six weeks of time diverted from normal road maintenance.

We expect to get approximately 50 percent of the expense refunded to us from FEMA and ADEM, although it will take six to 12 months to receive the money. For this reason, we have had to curtail some of the planned road maintenance for this year.

Van Buren County has an Early Weather Warning System called Code-Red. In early 2012, we had a total of 1,500 households. To date we have 2,550. To sign up for Code-Red, at no cost, call 745-3911 or 884-6004.

I want to update you with some information on the economic front:

1) Unemployment is down from 9 percent to 8.6 percent from the same month last year.

2) Talking with local real estate companies, they show in 2013 the existing home sales are up 20 percent to 30 percent from a year ago.

3) I have also seen new construction occurring in our area.

4) New natural gas wells have increased by 112 wells since the beginning of 2013, or a 15 percent annual growth rate.

5) Global Foods:

A. Has signed a contract with Van Buren County to purchase the “old Volex building.”

B. Will close on this sale by the middle of August.

C. Will begin the renovation process after the closing.

D. Have delivered four truckloads of processing equipment and freezer racks to the site.

E. They have advised me that they hope to start some production by the end of this year.

6) Ozark Health has completed construction of the hospital and will begin construction on the Medical Office Building soon.

7) Most people in the tourism business are advising me that 2013 is the best it has been the past 7 to 8 years.

Overall, I believe that Van Buren County is making a slow but steady recovery from the recession.

Finally, I would like to let everyone who devoted their time and money in helping with the many, many volunteer efforts in our county to know they are appreciated. These volunteers are a part of our volunteer fire departments, church groups, civic clubs, business owners, or just individuals themselves, and more, helping neighbors in time of need.

This volunteerism came to light after the April 10 tornado when we had over 400 volunteers sign up just a couple of days after the tornado. Some of the volunteers came from other parts of Arkansas and even other states.

I would like for you to take just five minutes of your time and think about your community and the amount of volunteer efforts that go into making this a great place to live. Then, when you see one of these volunteers, tell them we appreciate them.

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