Helena-West Helena and Phillips County are now in a full crisis mode.
For the local politicians the time has finally arrived to stop the petty arguments and get down to the serious business of running city and county government or this specific area of the Delta is forever doomed to become a vast ghost town of wasted opportunities and what will become hidden historical treasures.
Crime and finances are the most serious problems facing city and county officials. Make no mistake about it, 2014 is the year things must finally turn around.
Currently, many Helena-West Helena residents feel they are imprisoned in their own houses because of the serious crime problem in the community. Coupled with the news about home invasions, many local residents don't even feel safe in their home much less out on the streets at night.
At this point, I believe our local law enforcement officials are doing the best they can. Grossly under staffed, police officers and sheriff's deputies have the right to feel extremely frustrated when they make an arrest and the judicial system turns them loose almost as quickly as they can arrest them.
That brings us to another sticking point. Even after officers make arrests there is simply nowhere to incarcerate them locally. The city and county are rapidly running up massive bills for housing prisoners at other locales outside Phillips County. The lack of a jail facility is also taking its toll on taking officers off the street to transport the prisoners back and forth, plus gas expenses and the wear and tear on the department's already over-used vehicles.
Government officials must wake up and address the jail issue now – not next week or next month. Where will the money come from? Who knows? That should have been addressed several years ago before the existing facility got into its current dilapidated and deplorable state.
Yes, the people of this region of the Delta are still being punished for the mismanagement of previous leaders and administration. Lack of responsibility can haunt a community for years to come.
Council members and quorum court justices are going to have to come to the realization that an entity simply cannot spend money that it does not have. We are past the point of having to trim the fat. This time the cuts are going to have to go all the way to the bone. At this point, Christmas bonuses, new hirings and pay raises, particularly those for elected officials, are simply out of the question.
By law, a city must provide police and fire protection and sanitation services regardless of the financial crunch.
What it all comes down to is that the city of Helena-West Helena and Phillips County have dwindling sources of revenue. There are few major industries here to provide a solid tax base. There are plenty of hard working citizens out there who are desperately trying to make Helena-West Helena and Phillips County a robust tourist attraction. In that regard, we have plenty of which to be proud.
Page 2 of 2 - However, if the crime problem is not solved and the political shenanigans don't stop, who's going to come here to take in all the historic treasures we have in place. The first time a tourist is seriously injured by a criminal you can kiss the tourism industry goodbye. Word of mouth can destroy a wealth of opportunity faster than the news media and social media combined.
In closing, here's a word of warning to local politicians. Don't think for one minute that the people (voters) are pleased with the way things are getting done around here. I think it would be safe to say that our current government leaders have until November to turn things around. If not, don't be surprised if there are not some wholesale changes coming at the polls in the 2014 elections.
It might not quite be time to turn out the lights but I can assure you they are flickering and getting dimmer by each wasted hour.
Hold on to your hats and let's see what the coming year brings.