WALNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - After 116 years of the Walnut Ridge and Hoxie consolidation debate, a study was presented for the first time during a presentation in Walnut Ridge.
The Economic Impact Committee, a Walnut Ridge committee established in 2016, spent nearly nine months gathering data to determine how effective a consolidation between the two cities would be.
"After doing this study, our research shows that a consolidation would be both feasible and beneficial for both communities," said a committee member at the start of the presentation.
However, the committee also stated that the consolidation would not be equally beneficial.
For example, Walnut Ridge may benefit with a lower sanitation rate if combined with Hoxie, or Hoxie would benefit from an insurance standpoint when looking at the Walnut Ridge Fire Department's ISO rate, according to Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp.
"It's give and take in different categories, but that is what you would normally have when two groups work together," said Snapp.
The presentation also featured numbers from both cities, giving the community a peek at how each city is doing financially.
Snapp said at the end of the day, the consolidation is not about how much each city has in the bank, but how much income each city has coming in.
"It's obvious by their numbers, one of the towns does not have an increase in annual income," said Snapp. "That means they can use some financial support that way."
Also presented were numbers if the consolidation were to happen.
"This would put us at 8,100 people which would bring more businesses to the area, add more jobs and create a larger sales tax base," said Snapp.
Snapp added that the point behind having this presentation for the community is to give them a look at facts before voicing their views.
He said he also want the people to know that he is not forcing anything on anyone because he believes in residents having a voice.
"My goal at the end of the day is to leave it in the hands of the voters," said Snapp. "Let the people have a chance to vote. It's about the voters. It's about the residents. It is not about me or (Hoxie) Mayor (Lanny) Tinker. It is not about any of that. Let the people have the right to vote."
Other concerns addressed by the presentation included school consolidations which committee members said, by law, the city governments do not have the power to combine school districts in a consolidation.
Also if consolidated, Hoxie would be ineligible for certain grants they received based on their population but Snapp said that would not be a bad thing.
"If we consolidated, they would not need any money from the government because we all would work together to bring that money in from new businesses," said Snapp.
After the floor was opened for questions, some residents voiced their concerns about keeping their city's identity alive.
"No matter what you do, you will never lose your history. One of the presentations they made was the fact that Nettleton hasn't been a town in decades. It was consolidated with Jonesboro but everyone knows it as Nettleton," said Snapp. "I personally would love the name Walnut Ridge-Hoxie so that both of us can keep our identity."
In the end, the numbers presented during the presentation demonstrated several outcomes of a consolidation that committee members said were meant to educate residents.
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