GENTRY Much happened in Gentry during 2009. The following paragraphs give a brief overview of lead stories during the first half of the year.
James Furgason and Michael Crawford were sworn in on the city council Jan. 5. Crawford was re-elected, and Furgason returned to the council after Jim Kooistra did not seek re-election. The city council also approved a contract with Ron Homeyer of Civil Engineering Inc. in Siloam Springs for a comprehensive drainage study for the city. That study is now nearing completion.
Two new fire trucks were added to the Gentry Fire Department’s fleet at almost no cost to the department. A hook-and-ladder truck was received from a New York firefighting agency, and a brush truck was received from the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Another hook-and-ladder truck was also purchased by the city. The second hook-and-ladder unit is plumbed to pump water up to and from the bucket platform atop the 95 foot ladder - a valuable asset in fighting fires in large buildings or to pump water up close to a burning building where it would be unsafe to position firefighters and a traditional hose.
The Gentry Senior Activity Center received its new 13-passenger van, purchased with grant money through a state bid contract. Jerry Mitchell of the Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas handed the keys to the new van to Jackie Bader, the center’s manager, on Jan. 9. The van was purchased through a grant, which the Office of Human Concern and the Area Agency on Aging obtained for the Senior Activity Center.
Gentry police responded to an armed robbery at El Surtido Market on Gentry Boulevard Jan 16. A knife-wielding man took cash from the store.
Carol Casebeer was crowned coronation queen at Gentry High School Jan. 16. Keevan Allen was chosen captain.
The Gallatin Fire Department held an open house on Jan. 17 at its new fire station, which was built along Fairmount Road with money donated by Allens Canning.
A major ice storm moved into the area on Jan. 26 and continued to deposit ice for the next two days, breaking down trees and knocking out power around the region. Power remained off for days at many area businesses and homes, and the county became eligible for federal disaster assistance. Cleanup continued for more than a month in the city.
The annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet was delayed a week due to the storm. Lifetime Achievement Award recipients were Mildred Backer and Doris Carter.
The city of Gentry raised its water and sewer rates by 3 percent in February.
After more than a year under a fiscal distress designation by the state Board of Education, the Gentry School Board considered other areas where cuts could be made to prevent a full district takeover by the state.
City councilman Kevin Johnston in February suggested at a committee meeting that the city work toward becoming smokefree by implementing voluntary programs to help city employees quit smoking. No council action was taken on the matter.
In March it was announced that property assessments were to be lowered around the county. The Gentry council approved a slight increase in city trash rates.
Approval was given to a plan to bring driver’s license testing to Gentry. The testing is held on Thursdays and Fridays at the Community Room of Gentry’s Public Library.
The Gentry School Board, at its March meeting, gave approval to additional cuts to help improve the district’s financial situation. Further cuts were made in staff and contract days, and bus routes were reduced. The board began to consider contracting for janitorial services and refinancing its bonded debt.
Gentry Lions Club held its annual pancake supper at the end of March, with another large turnout to support the club’s work of providing eyeglasses for those who cannot afford them.
Concerns over the maintenance of the Flint Creek Cemetery led the mayor and city council to begin working on a plan to take over the historic cemetery and maintain it. The process was finally nearing completion at the end of the year so that the city will likely own the cemetery and maintain it in 2010.
The Chamber of Commerce held its annual Easter Egg Hunt in Gentry’s city park on a warm April 11 afternoon. Children filled the park and lined up waiting for the hunt to begin. When the time came and the hunt began, it was all over in minutes, with children winning numerous prizes and a few winning new bicycles.
The school board heard two plans for debt restructuring and received bids for janitorial services at its April meeting. Contracting janitorial services, it was determined, could save the district $100,000per year. The bid of Janco Building Services was accepted and awarded by the board.
The Courier-Journal began a new Web log, Life in Gentry. The site is still available at www2.nwanews.com/blo gs/lifeingentry. More updates are planned for the Web log in the upcoming months.
Tired iron of the Ozarks held its annual antique engine and tractor show at its show grounds on the weekend of April 17. Old engines, old tractors and numerous demonstrations of how things used to be done were on display for visitors without charge.
Western Recycling reopened the recycling center, which had been operated by the Ozark Adventist Academy but closed early in the year due to declining prices paid for recyclable materials. The center is now continuing to grow and expand. The center accepts paper, cardboard, plastics and scrap metals. It also has containers placed around town to collect materials.
More than 80 Gentry High School seniors graduated in ceremonies held inside the gymnasium on May 15. The ceremonies were moved indoors because of rain earlier in the week and a soggy football field.
Gentry Schools superintendent Dr. Randy Barrett, at the May school board meeting, told board members that he anticipated the district would finish out its fiscal year -July 1 through June 30 - with a positive balance of nearly $400,000 without taking out a cash-flow loan this year. The announcement further confirmed the positive steps the district had been taking to be released from the Arkansas School Board’s fiscal distress classification.
Jessica Jech, then a junior at Gentry High School, was crowned Miss Gentry at pageants held May 21 at Gentry High School. She continues to reign and represent the city.
The city’s building and property code enforcement committee in May told city building inspector David McNair they wanted him to enforce city code and take steps toward condemnation on buildings that did not measure up to city standards. Since that time, a number of buildings have been demolished and removed. A number of code violators were reported to the city council at its June meeting.
Plans for the July 4 Freedom Festival were being finalized in early June, with the promise of making the festival the biggest and best yet.
In June, the school board again heard favorable reports regarding the school district’s finances. Discussions about leasing school buses and driver services rather than operating its own transportation system were held, but no significant savings could be obtained through such a change in transportation services for the district, so nochange was made.
Gentry’s only full-line grocery store changed hands and reopened June 18 as Marvin’s Foods. The change relieved fears that the store would close permanently and leave Gentry residents with no choice but to drive elsewhere to purchase groceries. The store’s reopening as Marvin’s Foods has proven a true benefit to the city and its residents.
Lightning struck a digester at the Gentry sewer plant in June, and the council approved funds - $19,000 - for needed repairs.
Even after a late freeze, Taylor’s Orchard in Gentry announced ripening peaches and the opening of its fruit stand on June 20. Much of Taylor’s peach crop was destroyed by late freezes during the two previous years. The news of a good crop was a welcome announcement to many area residents who buy peaches and berries at the orchard.
In June, Heartland Cafe opened its doors at its renovated building on Gentry Boulevard. The new restaurant remains a popular spot for breakfasts and noon meals in Gentry.
Summer Reading was under way at the Gentry Public Library during June, with programs and crafts for children of all ages on several days each week.
The Farmers’ Market opened at the Chicken Coop Flea Market with vendors selling a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
To be continued ...
News, Pages 1 on 12/30/2009
Print Headline: Retrospective