Although 2020 proved to be a learning curve with new operational methods because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Benton Mayor Rita Dotson thinks the city faired well the difficult year. The city was still able to start and complete several projects that were in the plans.
“Dealing with the pandemic has been different. We’ve had to modify how we work, and who we work with and I feel like I’m constantly harping at my people to ‘put your mask on.’ If you are riding together in a vehicle, if you are talking to the public, if you are coming in City Hall, put your mask on,” said Dotson.
After initially breaking up the city’s workforce and working half of the employees at a time, the city opened back up to the public a month later with 100% workforce, being extremely cautious with safety procedures.
“We’ve done really well to be in the middle of this and having to take the extra precautions we do take. The people that work for the city have been tremendous so far,” Dotson said.
During 2020, the City of Benton completed the following:
• Country Trace bridge entrance replacement to widen and repave
• Began a comprehensive study and strategic plan in August to map out goals of the city.
• Entered contract with new waste removal services — WCA
• Began planning for the Symsonia Highway waterline Replacement
• Purchased a newer fire pumper truck to replace the 1992 model
• Upgraded water line from Ninth Street to 15th Street on Main Street to 10” pipes from 4” pipes to allow for residential and commercial growth
• Established a Code Enforcement Board and Hearing Officer
• Police department received its 5 year accreditation
• City Clerk and Treasurer Bethany Cooper was named the Kentucky Clerk of the Year
• Upgrades to City Hall when it was closed to the public
• Kept Citizens updated through news outlets, Reach Alert and Facebook
• Completed the sewer interceptor project
• Began work on the new United Systems building in SW1
• Began improvements on Main and Poplar Streets that will make driving safer and smoother and help mitigate the flooding issues.
• Replaced multiple water lines
• Re-habbed manholes
• Began working on a comprehensive plan to discharge 1 million more gallons per day at the waste water treatment plant for growth in the city
• Hosted Shop with a Cop
• Held monthly Car Cruise-ins
• Compromised churches being closed and the Dickens Christmas and parade being canceled with the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Grinch driving through residential neighborhoods.
• Benton Partnership began the Home of the Month
Dotson said she looks forward to 2021 and finishing some projects that have already been started such as the comprehensive plan, the waterline replacement on Symsonia Highway from Marshall County Hospital to the Graves County line and the creation of a dog park at H.H. Lovett Park. A 10-year plan to replace more water lines is also in the works and possible rehabilitation to the two water towers.
Dotson is doubtful the annual Tater Day celebration will be held in April. It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic was harmful somewhat to our economy be we also got, you know we got a lot of reimbursement from the state, so it did not hurt Benton like it maybe would Los Angeles, California, or Louisville, Kentucky or some of those places. We managed to maintain and watch our dollars, and we actually came out doing well through the pandemic. The loss of life in our community was the devastating part. That’s heartbreaking to me,” said Dotson.