Bickering at city hall, the wobbly economic status of Helena-West Helena, a continually rising crime rate and missing fugitive felony warrants were among the top stories affecting the residents of Phillips County during 2012.
Bickering at city hall, the wobbly economic status of Helena-West Helena, a continually rising crime rate and missing fugitive felony warrants were among the top stories affecting the residents of Phillips County during 2012. Back on March 20, H-WH Mayor Arnell Willis gave a sobering report on the city's finances in his State of the City report. He later recommended more manpower cuts and on April 4 he laid off 19 city employees. The long-awaited dedication of the new Fort Curtis took place on May 11. Fort Curtis is a replica of a Union fort during Helena's occupation in the War Between the States. The fort officially became the centerpiece of the community's Sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War. Outgoing Sheriff Ronnie White admitted that the Phillips County Sheriff's Office does not enter felony warrants into state or national crime databases. An investigation by a statewide newspaper revealed that it found more than 400 warrants that had not been served. White reported that his office could not afford the system to do the job or the employees necessary to staff it. The Helena-West Helena School district shut down three elementary campuses citing declining enrollments and to help reduce the district's budget deficits. Renovation of the old Helena High School got underway in the spring. When completed, the historic structure will become fixed-income apartments for seniors. In July, an independent auditor's report of the city revealed that the city's financial records for the year 2010 did not meet accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Phillips County Circuit Judge Richard Proctor initiated an investigation into an alleged “fake document” that attempted to illegally change the filling date for candidates for municipal offices in Helena-West Helena. On July 17, a public forum had local police officials explaining their efforts to reduce crime in Helena-West Helena. The 2-hour marathon session raised more questions than produced answers concerning the police's role in the community. Just nine months after setting up shop in Phillips County, Enviro Tech on July 20 announced expansion plans at a press conference that featured an appearance by Gov. Mike Beebe. Controversy arose over Mayor Willis' firing of long-time District Court Clerk Linda Danley for alleged “poor job performance.” Danley appealed the dismissal. Phillips County Circuit Court called a special summer session to help trim the number of backlogged cases and to help clear the docket. The former site of the old Cedar Chemical plant was placed on the Most Contaminated List by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One year after Operation Delta Blues, the Helena-West Helena Police Department launched a public safety and automation project thanks to a $108,000 grant from the Delta Bridge Project. There were some close races in the November general election but few surprises. Most incumbents retained their seats in the respective city and county offices that were up for grabs. A serious drought and record low levels on the mighty Mississippi took its toll on local farmers and river shippers.