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Area cities talk 2018 successes, 2019 plans

Posted on February 13, 2019

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce held their first Economic Outlook Luncheon of 2019 on Tuesday, with officials from each of the county’s municipalities, and the county itself, giving updates.

Union County

Greg Harrison, Union County Quorum Court’s District 3 Justice of the Peace, said revenues are up in the county, bills are being paid and overall, the county is doing well.

“I hope you all enjoy the nice roads and bridges that we have,” he said. “We’re working hard for you.”

Harrison also updated attendees on the Union County Jail, which was damaged in a fire last August. Harrison said most of the repairs are completed and Sheriff Ricky Roberts also got to check a few items off a wish list he’d built before the fire occurred. The repairs and upgrades cost an estimated $1.2 million.

“It looks very nice. I would encourage you to go out there and take a look at it,” Harrison said. “There were trials and tribulations, but the good Lord was looking out for us.”

He also said Union County may benefit from upcoming upgrades at the El Dorado-Union County Rec Complex. Last month, the El Dorado City Council approved a $2.6 million funding request from the El Dorado Works Board for upgrades to the Complex including new soccer and softball fields, renovated batting cages and other changes.

“This has been a long time coming and we’re definitely proud of that,” he said.


Mayor Bill Yutzy said Calion is making efforts to grow with infrastructure and leisure projects.

He said a new sewer system has been installed on the south side of Calion Lake and the area is now fit to be a residential area.

“It would be a great place for y’all to come in and put a little house and we’re fixed up for that now,” Yutzy said.

He said playground equipment has been purchased for the city park on the north side of Calion and that other upgrades are also being made to the park.

“We are making some progress and we invite you all to come out and see us, help us out,” he said.

El Dorado

Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer told attendees that El Dorado’s new recycling drop off center has opened and is now processing recyclable materials. She said the new center will separate one’s recyclables for them and that residents may buy trash bags there and at City Hall.

She said tours are available at City Hall and welcomed constituents to come by and meet her.

“We are doing great things there too. A lot of people, for whatever reason, have never been in City Hall, so we welcome you to come by,” she said. “We have an open door policy. … I want you to come by and meet me.”

Smith-Creer also touted the recent opening of the Fairfield Inn and Suites, saying she is glad El Dorado visitors will have another place to stay. She also said the city is looking forward to the groundbreaking for the Haywood Hotel, a boutique hotel expected to open downtown next March.

“I think I can kind of piggyback off Greg [Harrison] – when you talk about Union County, El Dorado, we kind of go together, so we’re excited about all of those things [as well],” Smith-Creer said.


“Things have started moving pretty fast in our part of the country,” said Felsenthal Mayor Linda Newberry as she described recent happenings in the city.

Newberry said a flood last year revealed vulnerabilities in Felsenthal’s escape routes in times of high flooding. She said now they are revamping their tram road to make sure that it will be safe and accessible for Felsenthal residents during floods.

“If you’ve never been there, you don’t know how isolated we really are when the water gets up,” Newberry said.

She also said her city recently had to deal with a fraudulent check scheme where her signature was forged on a check for over $3,000. She said the city was reimbursed, but that they plan to sign up for Positive Pay, an automated fraud detection tool recommended by the Arkansas Municipal League.

“It had our signatures on it, which was really freaky,” she said.

Newberry was excited to announce that Felsenthal’s annual Breamfest will be held again this year after a hiatus in 2018. Additionally, she said she is compiling a history of Felsenthal and she intends to collaborate with the Union County Historical Society.

“We’ve collected, over time, a lot of artifacts and a lot of historical data,” she said. “And if you have, or know somebody, that has stories about Felsenthal, or artifacts about Felsenthal, that would like to work with us or donate them, I would really appreciate getting a contact about that.”


“It’s a joy to always be here and to see so many wonderful people. And y’all are the heart of it,” said Norphlet Mayor Jim Crotty as he thanked El Dorado for its hard work in growing Union County.

Crotty said the Environmental Protection Agency is currently working in Norphlet to clean up oil at the MacMillan abandoned refinery. He said an offer has been made on the site for a new entity to set up a business there.

A six-mile long sewer line to Smackover Creek also will be installed soon, he said.

Crotty also suggested that attendees visit Café 1891, which opened in June 2017. He said the restaurant is named after the year Norphlet was established; the city did not incorporate until 1923.

“Norphlet’s a great area, and we’re so fortunate to have El Dorado, Murphy USA and Murphy Oil and the Griffin and MAD (Murphy Arts District) and all the things, Musicfest. The little towns like Norphlet and around there benefit from the hard work of a lot of El Dorado people, and I’m so appreciative,” he said. “I love living in Norphlet. … Union County’s wonderful, this is our home.”


Mayor Bobby Neal of Smackover said street work is ongoing after receiving a $250,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and $100,000 from the city of Smackover. Additionally, the city has invested in new street signs for the first time since 1970.

The city sewer pond will get three new aerators soon, he said, an investment that cost the city $450,000. He said they also recently replaced about 1,000 feet of sewer line in Smackover.

Neal said the city has also upgraded about half their water meters in the past few months. The upgraded meters are computer-read, he said, meaning they can be monitored and analyzed from the water company office.

“We can determine if you have a leak, or if anything goes wrong with it, if you’ve got an excessive amount of water going through it, we can let you know,” Neal said.

Next month, the Smackover City Council will vote on whether to add a new LED sign at their City Hall, Neal said. He also gave an update on the Old Hickory Sauce Company.

“The Old Hickory barbeque place is up and running in Smackover. All the Old Hickory barbeque sauce is made there in Smackover and they’re working on the building now to put the Big Daddy’s Hot Water Cornbread,” he said.


Pamela Dawkins spoke on behalf of Strong Mayor Daryell Howell. She said the city recently purchased a Hurryback building and are now working to convert it to a community fitness center. She said the city also recently purchased and installed playground equipment for the city park.

Additionally, she said the Strong Community Center has stayed booked most weekends and even some weekdays. The city recently repaved the center’s parking lot and added handicap-accessible parking spaces.

Dawkins said Strong is currently planning for their Fall Festival, which takes place in October. She also encouraged attendees to visit the River Bottom Grill, a new restaurant in Strong.

“In conclusion, despite its small size, the city of Strong is thriving,” Dawkins said.

Officials from Junction City and Huttig did not provide an update at the luncheon.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or