JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - During a city council meeting Tuesday night, Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker formed a committee called Keep Hoxie Hoxie: A Committee for an Independent Future.
The members are to look at the positive and negative impacts of a consolidation with Walnut Ridge.
This committee is in response to Walnut Ridge's Economic Impact Committee researching a possible annexation of Hoxie.
Tinker appointed three council members, a former school board member, and two citizens to the committee.
Tinker said Mayor Charles Snapp brought up this issue without getting input from him, the Hoxie City Council, or the citizens. He hopes this committee will let more people be part of the process.
"Just keep the process in balance," Tinker said. "Walnut Ridge is looking at it from an economic development there, and that is an important part of this, but it's not the only part of it."
Mayor Tinker admits that there may be good things that could come from consolidation, but he wants people in his city to be heard first.
"There could be some savings with one mayor, one treasurer, one fire chief, but when you start doubling people's responsibility, what comes with that is them asking for more raises," Tinker said. "So let's just make sure the figures that we're getting are accurate and it's beneficial both ways."
When asked if he thought the committee would be unbiased and report on the positive outcomes as well as the negative, Mayor Tinker said he believes the members will fairly represent the citizens of Hoxie and their needs.
Mayor Tinker also said he thinks any attempt to consolidate Hoxie with Walnut Ridge is premature until the planned development on the south side of town is complete and they can see how that impacts the city.
However, the Walnut Ridge Economic Impact Committee sent out a statement Tuesday night saying a possible consolidation between Hoxie and Walnut Ridge would be feasible.
In the statement, chairman Jon Walter said the Walnut Ridge committee looked into several factors including the budgets for both towns, water and sewer audits and sales tax revenue reports to gauge whether or not a merger would work.
"After extensive research, it is the opinion of the Economic Impact Committee that the consolidation of the townships of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie is feasible and would prove beneficial in both the short and long term of the citizens, residents, taxpayers, business owners and recipients of government services," the letter noted.
The letter also noted that a merger would eliminate redundancies, help with street repairs and improve Hoxie's ISO fire rating among other reasons.
Walter said the group plans to meet March 2 in Walnut Ridge and possibly March 16 in Hoxie to discuss the issue with residents.
"It is the opinion of the EIC that in no way, form or manner does this study by the EIC constitute a takeover or annexation of Hoxie, hostile or otherwise," Walter said. "Furthermore, the committee does not attest that a consolidation will affect poorly or affect negatively the current school districts of Hoxie or Lawrence County. School district funding and governing structure is separate from city government."
In the fall of 2016, the City of Hoxie purchased five acres of land in the south part of town. Phase one of the development is to build streets and that construction is expected to be underway by the spring of 2017.
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