Mattingly gives 'state of the city' address

Benton Mayor David Mattingly spoke to Benton City
Council members and residents during his annual "state of the city" address Monday night.
Mattingly cited several achievements and notable events from 2011 that will impact the future of the city.
In his speech, the mayor noted:
"It's not unusual for speeches to begin with something as traditional as the preamble to our Constitution. It makes a strong statement about the foundation on which our government was formed. "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
"Significant to our Constitution was the establishment of the legislative, executive and judicial system, which ensured a balance of power. As mayor of the city of Benton, my responsibility is to act as the executive for our city government."
"In that capacity, Arkansas Code 14-43-504 requires the mayor go give an annual 'state of the city report, and here are some highlights I want to share with you from what I feel was a successful year.
"You will be pleased to know we operated within budget, which we take very seriously. Accountability and transparency are more than a word to be thrown around in some trivial manner, especially when you are responsible for taxpayers' hard-earned money. "By operating within budget, we were able to use revenues from current year operations for several capital expenditures. Congratulations, department heads, for a job well done and thank you, Benton City Council, for your support.
"The horror stories of many governmental entities cutting benefits, as well as the number of employees, reverberated throughout the country over the past few years. Unfunded liabilities created by escalating pension costs have had a negative impact on benefit funding. The City Council is to be commended for passing legislation requiring all new hires to become 4 percent contributory to their pension within the first two years of their employment, thereby stabilizing the escalating costs associated with funding the pension plan.
"In August, our city dealt with a very difficult crisis when the Entergy Arkansas' substation off South Market Street failed and a fire engulfed one of the main transformers. Our public utilities department, and other city departments responded and worked tirelessly for more than 48 hours with Entergy Arkansas' personnel to get our electricity restored. "Many organizations in the community stepped forward to help their fellow citizens 'weather the storm.' Everyone involved is to be commended for their extraordinary commitment in solving a very difficult problem."
Mattingly noted that another significant announcement occurred in the fall when Saint Gobain held a press conference regarding an expansion of its operations in Saline County and made a commitment to a $120-million new plant. "This expansion will create up to 140 new jobs, foster other employment opportunities in related construction industries, and have a positive impact on many local businesses," he said.
He pointed out that in the Aug. 11 Advertising and Promotion Commission's monthly meeting, the commission "took a very important step in approving the proposed legislation required to be brought to the City Council on Aug. 22, authorizing a public vote for the bond initiative for the construction of a hotel/events center."
The result of the Nov. 8 special election was that 72 percent of the voters supported this project, Mattingly said.
"Thank you, Benton," Mattingly said. "By this overwhelming favorable vote, the people of Benton have demonstrated their willingness to invest in their city by constructing an events center creating many opportunities for our city to become more competitive.
"In December we hosted a joint press conference with UALR's Chancellor Joel Anderson to announce a four-year degree program being offered at the Benton Center. It was a banner day for our city and Saline County. This degree will have a strong component of information technology as a major, combined with a blend of liberal arts and Internet application to business, leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree titled e-commerce."
Mattingly concluded his remarks by thanking the residents of Benton for their cooperation as well as the City Council and business leaders for their vision of Benton's future.