Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker discussed progress made in 2019 and goals for 2020 during a State of the County address to various civic clubs this week.
He said more than 110,000 tons of asphalt was laid in the county in 2019.
“Faulkner County has less than than 30 miles of gravel roads,” he said. “There’s no other county in the state that even comes close to that.”
The county built three new bridges and eight in-house bridges in 2019 and plans to build three new bridges in 2020 and several in-house bridges, he said.
“The three brand new bridges we built last year cost around $2.5 million,” he said. “They were needed.”
He said the county has invested a lot of money in infrastructure since 2015.
“We’ve spent $82 million in the last five years on our county’s infrastructure. Along with the help from the state – they put in $13 million – we’ve invested $95 million in infrastructure,” Baker said.
He noted that Faulkner County has partnered with every city and township within the county on projects, setting it apart from surrounding areas.
“We partnered with every city in the county. No other county that I’m aware of does this,” he said.
In 2019, the county “took in 189 in its system that were not being maintained,” he said.
Baker discussed several goals for 2020.
“We’re faced with expanding our jail. We’ve got some plans in place to address it,” he said. “We’ve working to improve our 911 system and keeping it up to date. Everyone wants a good 911 system. It’s a big issue.”
He said he still hopes to partner with the city of Conway on an animal shelter.
“We are lacking animal control for the county. We have basically the money to build a system but we don’t know how we would turn the lights on,” Baker said. “Hopefully, when we get ready to build it, we can build one jointly with the city off Conway. I really don’t think taxpayers should have to pay for two.”
He said some future projects would include expanding the library and making improvements to courthouse, though they may not be addressed this year.
“We’re outgrowing our library. Expansion there has got to be addressed,” he said. “We’ve got a courthouse going on 80 years old. It’s going to have be improved at some point.”
He said the county will continue its safety initiative by adding more streetlights on heavily traveled highways.
“We started a year ago installing night lights at intersections on state highways. Traffic moves pretty fast on state highways,” he said.
Baker encouraged people to support rural fire departments.
“We’re proud of our rural fire departments. There are 23 rural fire departments in Faulkner County,” he said. “We should try to help rural fire departments in unincorporated areas. They have no way to raise funds other than dues.”