County Judge's Newsletter

I am writing this letter to you on August 15th.  So far this summer, it has been hot and humid with an abundance of rainfall.  Some areas in Van Buren County are 10 to 15 inches of rainfall above the normal for this year.

            This has allowed the farmer to have an abundance of grass and hay for their animals.  Plus it kept the yard and road banks green through the summer.  I thank God for that and this is sure better than the summer of 2012.

Update on YTD Figures for Road Plan

Annual Plan                            YTD
Tons of Gravel                   125,000  tons 100,000 tons (or 5,300 loads)

Miles of 4” gravel and drainage improvement               46.6  miles  30.0 miles

Asphalt overly                     4.1  miles       2.7 miles

Chip & Seal Overlay            13.2  miles     5.7 miles

New Chip & Seal                14.8  miles      3.5 miles

Total Road Improvement for 2016:    40.9  miles

Past 5-years and 7 month figures are:

Tons of Gravel                        815,000 tons  (or 42,900 loads)

            Mileage of 4” gravel                   259.6  miles

            Asphalt Overlay                            72.6  miles

            Chip & Seal Overlay                     63.2  miles

            New Chip & Seal                          43.5  miles

Total Road Improvement:                       438.9  miles

            Chip & Seal operation is underway and probably will continue through October with the amount of rain we are getting.

            Earlier this year the Van Buren County Library opened the new libraries in Clinton and Damascus.  The attendance at Clinton increased 24% and in Damascus 21% over the same period last year.  The Library reported the summer reading program this year had 3 times the amount of students compared to last year.

            One of the responsibilities of County government is to run a transfer station for solid waste and coordinate the recycling effort for the Van Buren County area.  We have just completed the fiscal year July, 2015 through June, 2016.  The department reported 8,493 tons of solid waste transferred to the Morrilton landfill, 367 tons of recycled materials sold and 4,468 tires (passenger care tires) collected.

            The transfer station employs 6 full-time employees and 1 part-time.  There are 4 independent contractors and a city contractor for solid waste, which employes approximately 20 employees.

Some Economic Happening in the County

1. About two weeks ago, Southwestern Energy (SWN) executives informed me that they would be starting 1-drill rig on September 1, 2016 in the Fayetteville Shale area.  And they also had 30 wells that had been drilled but not fracked.  They were going to do those wells starting immediately.  They also reported that they were starting 2 drill rigs in Pennsylvania and 2 drill rigs in West Virginia.  At that time, they had hired about 50 employees from the Fayetteville Shale area for the drilling rigs.

            The price of natural gas has changed from an early 2016 low of $1.75 MCF and is now in   the $2.50 - $2.80 range.  They also said reserves were dropping and 2017 future pricing was in $3.00 MCF range.

            I hope this trend in improving prices continues.

2. Also, I was at the Cattlemen's meeting on August 8th and they reported prices were up about $10.00-$15.00 per hundredweight.  It was reported both the sale barns at Damascus and Clinton are having good sale numbers.

            I had Danny Griffin, Agricultural Extension Agent, give me the amount of cattle and calves in Van Buren County and the six surrounding counties.  (this is 2012 data)

COUNTY                               COW & CALF POPULATION                  COUNTY RANK

Van Buren                             18,736                                                  34th

Faulkner                                30,168                                                  21st

Conway                                 37,436                                                  12th

Pope                                     29,870                                                  24th

Searcy                                  22,954                                                  31st

Stone                                    28,414                                                  27th

Cleburne                                34,276                                                  15th

3. New Home Construction and remodeling seems to be picking up in our area.                                 

            Recently Ozark Resort Homes announced a $5,000,000.00  private investment project called Osage Point Townhomes.  The project is a single family residential construction project.  Osage Point Townhomes will be a 20 unit townhome development consisting of 10 buildings with 2 units per building.  This project is the most aggressive residential project in Fairfield Bay, in the last 25 years.  The owner of Ozark Resort Townhomes are Wayne Harlon and Mike Lester.  I am also aware of at least 4 more new houses in the County.

4.         Real Estate Sales Increase over 2015 numbers:

            “Real Estate sales in Van Buren County through the second quarter of 2016 were on the rise.  The number of properties sold rose 25% over the same time period of 2015.  The average price rose 9% and the number of days on the market dropped 23%.  According to the Nation Associaton of Realtors existing home sales rose in June for the fourth consecutive month, nationwide.  Boosted by increased sales to first-time buyers, there was a 22% increase in overall sales of existing homes which in line with the trend are seen in Van Buren County...

            *(Source: Fairfield Bay News, Wednesday, August 10, 2016)

          5.           The Fairfield Bay Mayor reported that tourist related dollars were up almost 20% in June,                                   2016 versus June, 2015.

          6.           Department of Labor statistics for January  2015; January 2016, and June 2016 (preliminary).

      Date                      Labor Force               Employed          % of Unemployment

January 2015                    6375                     5825                 8.7%

January 2016                    6525                     6075                 7.1%

June 2016                         6650                     6200                6.9%

7.       In my talk with Ozark Health, they report that the amount of out-patient prodedures continues to grow.

8.      Some upcoming events are:

National Chuck Wagon Races, August 27th – September 4th, at Eoff Ranch –Clinton.

Bayfest, September 3rd  -  Fairfield Bay Mall Area

August 31st – September 3rd - 11th Annual Cowboy Catfish Supper – Clinton Senior Center

September 3rd – Rock Skippin Contest  9:00 a.m. Fairfield Bay Marina

September 9th - 11th  - “Love the Lake and River” weekend Clean-up – Fairfield Bay Marina

September 10th  -  Community Flag Football – 3:00 p.m.  Clinton Football Field

September 12th - 17th  -  Van Buren County Fair  -  Van Buren County Fairgrounds.

September 16th  -  Taco Salad Dinner  -  Alread School Cafeteria

September 17th  -  Paddle Battle – 10:00 a.m.  Fairfield Bay Marina

September 17th  -  “Leg it for the Library”  -  Choctaw Park

September 17th  -  Chimes Hog Roast Dinner   Chimes School and Fire Department

September 24th  ACRD  Concert  -  Alread School

October 1st  Annual Chili Cook-Off  -  11:00 a.m.   Historic Downtown Clinton

October 1st  Candidate Forum – 5:00 p.m.  -  Alread EH Club

October 8th  Alzheimers Stroll  8:00 a.m.   Archey Fork Park  -  Clinton

October 8th  -  Mickey Gilley  - Clinton High School Auditorium         

October 14-15th  -  Octoberfest  Fairfield Bay Mall

October 15th  -  2016  Buddy Walk  -  Archey Fork Park – Clinton

October           (Date to be Announced)   Scotland Yard Sale

            As you can see, September and October are always busy in Van Buren County.  Please participate in as many of the events as possible.

            Until next time, thanks and God Bless!