Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington’s latest town hall meeting held Tuesday night at the Pine Bluff Convention Center covered a myriad of topics, including the recent Black Pilots of America Fly-In, an upcoming festival set for downtown, Pine Bluff Animal Control and The Pine Bluff Clean and Green Initiative.
The purpose of the meetings is to inform and update Pine Bluff residents of what’s going on within city government, Washington said.
Pine Bluff Alderman Steven Mays encouraged guests to ask questions during the meeting regarding happenings in their neighborhood.
Kenneth “Ken” Johnson, chairman of the Pine Bluff Aviation Commission and a member of BPA who began flying more than 30 years ago, provided highlights from this past weekend’s Memorial Day fly-in.
In 1996, Johnson said he attended a BPA board of directors meeting where the members were searching for a new home to host its annual event. During the meeting, Johnson raised his hand and asked, “Why don’t you guys come to Pine Bluff?”
Johnson said that realizing Pine Bluff’s central location led him to recommend the city as a host.
“I thought initially that they would come into Pine Bluff and be here for one year and then pick a different location, but surprisingly, they’ve been here for 22 consecutive years,” he said.
Johnson went on to say that the BPA continues to choose Pine Bluff because of the hospitality, greetings and overall support they continue to receive from the city. This year’s fly-in consisted of approximately 118 pilots from across the country and 25 airplanes.
The pilots stayed in Pine Bluff for almost four days, contributing to the economy through their hotel stays, restaurant dining and other recreational activities.
Johnson emphasized the lasting impression that the annual event leaves on the youth and the importance of introducing aviation to those who have never been exposed to it.
In other news, S.E. Shaw, Pine Bluff Animal Control director, informed guests about Animal Control’s function. He focused on policy and procedure, partnership and progress.
The Animal Control processes between 115-120 animals each month due to people not knowing they are out of compliance with the law, Shaw said.
“We are working hard to get the information to the public,” he added. “When people are informed, compliance goes up.”
Shaw said that Animal Control has learned to partner with the community, including the Police Department, Fire and Emergency Services Department, the city attorney’s office and volunteers.
Shaw said that many people have begun to partner with and volunteer at the animal shelter, including Pine Bluff Animal Friends, Last Hope K9 Rescue and Rescue Road.
Last Hope has recently donated money to the shelter for a new generator and the installation of cameras at the facility.
“People outside of Pine Bluff are interested in Pine Bluff and care about the animals,” Shaw said.
Rescue Road visited Arkansas this year and donated $43,000 to some of the state’s animal shelters, with a portion being donated to the Pine Bluff Animal Shelter.
Shaw encouraged volunteerism, saying, “we can’t run the shelter without volunteers.”
He said that progress is being made at the shelter.
“We are working hard,” he said, adding that neighborhoods have become safer and people are better informed on who needs to be contacted in regards to animal issues.
In other news, Washington provided an update on the Pine Bluff Clean and Green Initiative.
“When you look at all that’s happening, it’s a good time to be in Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” the mayor said.
She said that new roofs have been placed in the Townsend Park Pavilion and acknowledged volunteers who helped with the project, including volunteers from The Covenant Recovery Center, a transitional living center that offers inpatient and outpatient drug treatment.
She said that the Rev. Jesse Turner and the King Team painted trash receptacles, seats and bins at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park with the help of the Boy Scouts and 4-H Club members.
“People care about our community, and when they see that you’ve gotten something started, they join in,” Washington said.
The mayor also made mention of downtown property owner Wil Jenkins and the block parties that he has thrown for the community in recent weeks. She mentioned the upcoming Forward Fest: Blues Batter and Brew, which is being sponsored by Go Forward Pine Bluff.
The event begins at noon on Saturday, June 9, in downtown Pine Bluff and is free to the public. Those who come are urged to bring lawn chairs. There will be food, live music, a fireworks display, a car show, vendors and more.
Musical guests will include Angie Stone, Sean Chambers, Tragikly White and Bigg Robb.
“We want that festival to be larger than the festival they had in Little Rock (River Fest) last weekend,” Washington said. “We want it to grow bigger and bigger each and every year. We know that we can do it and we have to do these things to bring our city back.”