Searcy officials brought an end to their citizens focus group meetings Thursday night at least temporarily, going over the city’s budget and discussing a survey given to the group members.
The city held the focus group meetings after the Searcy City Council agenda meeting the last three months to discuss what to do next after voters in February rejected making the city’s eight-year, 1-percent sales and use tax permanent. The tax sunsets in June 2022.
“Tonight is the last night we will be hosting a focus group for now, but it is not your last opportunity for feedback so watch the website [www.cityofsearcy.org] to see if we schedule more focus groups,” Council member Tonia Hale said, before thanking those who participated.
Council member Rodger Cargile presented the information from the survey, which contained three questions.
The first one was: “The city of Searcy provides many services like sanitation, fire, police, leaf and limb pickup, streets and drainage maintenance, parks and rec, animal control, code enforcement and many others. Please share the services you value most or would like to see improved as well as any additional services you would like to see the city offer.”
Cargile said most everyone who answered valued all of the city services that are being offered.
“The most common answers were police and fire and sanitation, specifically leaf and limb for sanitation,” he said. “Other things mentioned were improving and better maintaining of our walking trails. Streets and drainage was an area that was mentioned here and it’s also a place where the work is never done. It is maintaining and improving what we have today as well as planning for our future, planning for a city we hope and intend on growing.”
Sidewalks were mentioned by multiple people in the survey, Cargile said. He said they said the city needs to improve the existing ones and add new ones.
“That’s a great idea that we would all like to see happen,” he said. “Recently, the city applied for a grant to put a sidewalk from Searcy High School to Beebe-Capps, which is down Ella Street. That is roughly 1,200 feet long down that stretch and with concrete and all the things that go into sidewalks now, it was about $90,000 to do that one sidewalk. Our fingers are crossed that that will happen because it is desperately needed.”
One resident responding to the survey wrote that he or she doesn’t have city sewer and would like to see it extended to all areas inside the city limits, Cargile said.
“Although it is referred to as city water and city sewer, these two utilities are operated by Searcy Water Utilities and it’s not a part of city government,” Cargile responded.
Question 2 on the survey was: “We want Searcy citizens to enjoy a high quality of life. Please help us understand what city-assisted activities are enjoyable to you and you would like to see the city continue to facilitate. Some examples might be fireworks, festivals, Christmas displays, movies in the park, etc., and list things you would like to see more of or new things to happen along those lines.”
The most commented answer “by far and away,” Cargile said, was Christmas displays, everything from lights, parades, decorations, improving the display at Berryhill and Spring parks, building a drive-through Christmas village, with lights and decor like Batesville has.
“You can definitely tell the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Searcy,” he said. “Several other things that were mentioned were food festivals, cooking contests, expanding the farmers’ market. A Fourth of July fireworks show was listed on nearly a third of all the replies. Movies in the park, concerts, a bigger and better dog park, youth programs and a big, big one here is pickleball.
“Up until a few months ago, I got to tell you, I have never heard pickle and ball in the same sentence, so that has changed big time.”
Cargile talked about pickleball courts and the resurfacing of tennis courts at Berryhill Park that will be done thanks to the Searcy Advertising and Tourism Promotion Commission. “I think a lot of people are going to be happy to hear that,” he said.
Continuous improvement of Searcy parks is another area included in survey responses. Cargile said he agreed with them. “Quality of life is something we have to pay attention to and have to keep moving forward with.”
Question 3 was: “Citizens of Searcy have mentioned several community impact projects that they would like to see accomplished. Some examples of impact projects are a community center, pickleball courts again, the splash pad, outdoor pools. We asked you to let us know what impact projects in addition to those listed that you would like to see, including those listed above.”
The No. 1 answer on the community impact projects was a community center, Cargile said. He read some responses: “A community center capable of having multiple indoor sports, concerts, meeting spaces, workout activities and activities for youth and seniors. Splash pads and outdoor pools, more bike and walking trails, specifically the development of Riverside Park.”
Cargile said one response stuck out to him, so he thought he would read it: “Community center, outdoor water park, new dog park, a fantastic skate and bike park, more walking and biking, new large public fishing, splash pads at all public parks, more art, music and cultural activities, public transportation, a scooter partnership with Harding University, connecting HU to downtown, build out Riverside Park, enhance baseball, football and soccer with all lit fields, more restrooms, concession stands, indoor/outdoor basketball courts, indoor/outdoor pickleball courts, transform the events center into a great performance and gathering space, bury all the power lines and add more signage telling us where we are going downtown.”
Cargile said the survey results will be posted on cityofsearcy.org in a few days.
“We also have a new survey and we will essentially call it Survey No. 2,” Cargile said. It will be completely online, with boxes to be checked. At the bottom, those responding may write things that were mentioned or things they would like to say.
The survey is open to any Searcy resident who wants to participate and the results will be shared, Cargile said.
Mayor Kyle Osborne told The Daily Citizen on Friday that after results of the second survey have been tabulated, there will probably be another focus group meeting to talk about the results.