The Greenwood Democrat will be counting down the four biggest news stories from 2017 over the next few weeks. On December 28 we will have a special edition of the paper that will highlight our favorite stories about our community and events from the last year.

If the numbers are to be believed Greenwood is on the verge of a population increase unlike anything in the city’s history. In 2016 the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization predicted that the largest population growth in the area is expected to be in Greenwood with a 153 percent projected increase by the year 2040. All this adds up to a population of approximately 24,495 by 2040, which is shocking considering that the current number is just 9,666.

Tax Dollars at Work

Greenwood has spent the last decade investing money in its parks, streets and fire department thanks in large part to a three quarter cent sales tax that was passed by the citizens in 2006 and was renewed for another 10 years in 2015.

The tax has enabled the city to build and extend walking trails, build the Ed Wilkinson Community Pavilion in Bell Park, add several neighborhood parks around town, build an eastside fire station, purchase a ladder truck for the fire department and save over a million dollars to invest in a proposed bypass to help alleviate traffic issues. The city also built a new police station with another tax increase which was passed by the citizens in 2013.

Future projects include: a water feature, such as a splash pad, in Bell Park, a west side fire station, additional firefighting equipment as well as road improvements.

Westside Expansion

The city has undertaken several new projects in recent months with an eye towards the future and to help encourage economic growth. The water and sewer line extension that runs from Liberty Drive to Hwy. 71 is one such project and is one that has already shown some results. The city council approved the project, which was proposed by the Water/Wastewater committee in 2016. In total the city put about $350,000 into the line extension. That investment has increased the property values of that land and attracted the eye of several new business which should be popping up along 10 Spur in the coming months and years. According to the City Clerk/Treasurer, Sharla Derry, the Greenwood Planning Commission has approved a variance in that area to allow a strip mall that will include a Dollar Tree, an Anytime Fitness Gym and an AT&T store.

Eastside Expansion

In June of 2016 Greenwood Mayor, Doug Kinslow, held a study session to discuss his idea for building a municipal on the east side of town. According to the mayor he has been in talks with the owners of a 96 acre tract that lies between Alpha Packaging and Old Chismville Rd. concerning potential sports park. The owners have proposed a deal with the city to give over 40-50 acres of land in exchange for infrastructure on the remainder of the property. The landowners have the property platted for a new housing addition, but the platt has yet to be presented to the city council for approval. The mayor stated that there were 100 homes planned for the area but that the landowner only plans to build about half as many as originally platted.

If such an exchange with the property owner were to fall through the council has expressed an interest in following through with the plan and incorporating the price of the land into final cost of that project.

“If they are willing to trade infrastructure for this piece of property,” said Alderman Lee Johnson. “A part of that is coming out of the water department for improvements to water and sewer on the East side of town, which will likely benefit folks that will live out there eventually, that is not a bad deal. Let’s say we don’t do that deal and they come in and develop that land. We will be looking at doing some kind of improvements anyway one way or the other and then we will not have the 40-50 acres.”

Dr. Johnson went on to say that his only issue would be how will the city pay for the park, which they agreed could cost the city roughly $10 million.

“If you do a one cent sales tax that will come to about one million dollars a year,” said Johnson. If you do that for 10 years you get 10 million dollars worth of sports complex out here. Are people going to vote for that? I don’t know.”

Bypass/Land Development

It is a idea that has been tossed around for years and every administration at city hall has had their own plan for alleviating traffic in Greenwood. According to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department that is part of the reason they have not been able to proceed with a plan in the city, there are simply too many options. In a meeting with city leaders the Highway department officials explained that the city needs to decide what they want to do and submit a single plan.

Currently the city is working with engineers on a bypass idea that will not only get the traffic moving through town but may open up new areas of the city for the development of not only residential but of commercial properties in Greenwood.

Growing School District

It has been said that Greenwood’s biggest industry is its schools. The Greenwood School District has been building and adding on constantly for decades trying to stay one step ahead of it growing student body. Most recently the high school added the Freshman Center onto the existing high school. According to Superintendent John Ciesla the center benefits ninth grade students by easing their transition into the high school environment and helps ease overcrowding and costs. Many of the academic and auxiliary programs needed at the center and high school are shared, cutting costs. And the resultant reconfiguration of grades eases the district’s space concerns for three or four more years, he said.

Enrollment for Greenwood Schools has risen steadily over the course of the last 25 years. In the 92-93 school year total enrollment was 2,608, this year it is 3,693. That is an increase of 1,085, which comes to approximately 43 additional students every new school year.

Economic Development Committee

In response to the city’s population growth and in order to encourage economic growth the mayor has appointed a new committee to do just that. According to the Chairman of the committee, Michael Lejong, the group was formed to help attract new businesses to town along with developing and maintaining existing businesses. The GEDC has been around since 2014 and helped get Tractor Supply Co. situated when they moved to town. The committee has also helped the city to develop a new community logo and brand, “Greenwood Feels Like Home.”

The GEDC also plans to work with the Greenwood Chamber to make a promotional video tour of the city , update their website, add way finding signage for parks, schools and other amenities in the area and create an organization that will work to retain the businesses Greenwood already has.