Walnut Ridge committee chair discusses consolidation research

Walnut Ridge committee chair discusses consolidation research
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Walnut Ridge and Hoxie may be right next to each other, but the mayors still couldn't think more differently on one issue: consolidation.

In January, Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp announced he has a committee researching the outcomes of annexing Hoxie.

In response to that, Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker has formed his own committee called Keep Hoxie Hoxie: a Committee for an Independent Future.

Jon Walter, the chair of Walnut Ridge's Economic Impact Committee, said they have been looking at the numbers for nine months and have found mainly positives to come from consolidation.

Walter and three citizens make up the committee, which was formed in May 2016.

Since then, they have looked at audits for both cities from 2010 to now, expense and revenue reports, budgets, and the cash flow for each department in the cities.

"We were also looking for input from just our department heads on how they would possibly find efficiencies if the two towns were put together," Walter said.

Walter said he honestly went into the research unsure if a consolidation would be good for the community.

"But after studying it for nine months and looking at the numbers and the way they come out, both for individual departments and for the entire consolidated effort, we've found that this is probably, well this is going to be a good thing to happen," he said.

Walter also said he would be happy to discuss their findings with the City of Hoxie.

"We'd be happy to meet with them, show them what we've got, interact with them, meet with Mayor Tinker, let him know what we've found," Walter said. "I mean, it's all going to be public."

Walter thinks that if Hoxie's committee is unbiased, they will come to the same conclusions his team has.

While the committee has reportedly found mostly good possible outcomes, a Hoxie woman said the issue is about a lot more than a larger population and combining money.

"I think they need to keep the small towns as small towns," Kathy Passalaqua said. "Hoxie has a lot of heritage with the trains intersecting and lots of different rich history here, and that might get lost and muddled if it consolidated."

Passalaqua said she chose a small town to raise her children in and she doesn't want that to change.

"If you don't like the small town, then move," she said. "If you want a small town to live in, then this is where you need to be."

One man who did not want to be identified did speak to Region 8 News Wednesday. He said he thinks consolidation would be a good thing and could mean more improvements for the town.

A public meeting is scheduled for March 2 for the Walnut Ridge Economic Impact Committee to share their findings.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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