December 15, 2010 Edition

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Gearhart is Intermodal
Authority executive director

Following the advice of Mike Malden, director of external affairs for Entergy, at the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Facilities Authority's October meeting, the board hired Wayne Gearhart as executive director of the organization. Geahart will resign as board chairman, vice chairman Matt Woolard of Corning will assume the chairmanship in January and Scott Trammell will become the new vice chairman.

Malden urged the board to hire an economic developer/executive director to guide the Authority through the maze and hurdles to help them be successful.

Matt Crafton, whose engineering firm has been doing the consulting work for the NEAIA for over a year, encouraged the board to hire a champion, someone whose only job is promoting the Authority and seeking jobs.

Several mayors and county judges as well as the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department were in agreement, and Gearhart was chosen for the job.

"Gearhart has been doing the job for the past 18 months anyway," Matt Woolard of Corning, vice chairman of the Authority, said, "and he hasn't been getting paid for it."

Gearhart told the board he did not think they could afford a full-time director, but he offered to do the job on a part-time basis. The board agreed to pay him $2,000 per month, and to pay Randolph Chamber of Commerce Executive Assistant Deonne Donner $500 per month as compensation for her work with the Authority.

Randolph County Judge David Jansen will provide office space in the old courthouse for Gearhart.

"Crafton Tull engineers are having to make decisions on an almost daily basis, and they need a point man," Gearhart said. "You have to be available to meet with them and other people."

According to engineering reports dealing with the Hoxie/Walnut Ridge site, which is being looked at by Integrated Renewable Resources, all the boundary and topography work is complete, along with the geo-tech and the 10 percent railroad plan. The environmental assessment is ongoing until early spring with no problems being encountered.

The Authority's engineers are working with the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads to answer any questions they might have, and responses from the two railroads are expected in 30-45 days.

The Authority was urged to meet with elected officials about the possibility of setting aside grant funds.

Renee Doty of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission told the board that a long-term funding stream is critical, and that many of these grants now available may not exist in a year or two.

The Authority also heard from J.R. Cox of Hoxie who expressed concerns about the possible closing of a road between Highway 63 and the bypass. Closing the road, which is heavily used, would create difficulty for many people, he said.

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