February 10, 2016 Edition

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Dr. Tom Jones (seated, center) signs the first petition calling for the consolidation of College City and Walnut Ridge. With him at the table are Dr. Paul Rhoads (left), mayor of College City, and Charles Snapp, mayor of Walnut Ridge. Some of the officials visible behind them are (from left): John Householder, Dr. Jeremy Dutschke, Jerry Gibbens, Joy Ring, Everett Hart, Nancy Hall, Jon Walter, Pam Kopp and Tony Waldrupe.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

College City, WR launch consolidation effort

The effort to consolidate College City and Walnut Ridge kicked off with a brief ceremony and signing of petitions on Tuesday morning in the Swaim Administration Building at Williams Baptist College. The petitions request that a special election be held to vote on the consolidation of the two towns.

Officials from College City, Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County were on hand for the event, which has been long discussed and pursued but not ever put to a vote.

Dr. Paul Rhoads, mayor of College City, said the consolidation of the two municipalities has been discussed for 30 years. "It's time to do something."

Dr. Tom Jones, WBC president, said, "Williams Baptist College has been on record since 1998 in support of the consolidation."

"Today is a monumental event," said Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp. "It's time to give voters a chance to say 'yea' or 'nay.'"

Dr. Jones was the first person to sign the College City petition. Mayor Rhoads followed Jones, while Mayor Snapp signed the Walnut Ridge petition.

For the issue to be put to a vote, the petitions must be signed by 15 percent of the number of voters in the last mayoral election for each town. For College City, that number is only nine verified voters, while the 15 percent for Walnut Ridge amounts to approximately 263 verified voters signing the petition. Several dozen signatures were collected at the end of the event.

Once signed, petitions will be presented to the city clerk of each town for validation before going to the city councils of each town.

By law, the special election would then be held at the expense of the larger of the two cities.

If consolidation is approved by both towns, ward boundary lines would be redrawn to include College City for equal representation in an existing ward in Walnut Ridge.

In August, interested candidates for alderman positions of College City and Walnut Ridge would file based on the ward in which they live.

In the November General Election, residents of both Walnut Ridge and College City would both vote in the Walnut Ridge election.

College City would officially become a part of Walnut Ridge at 12 a.m. on New Year's Day.

The Walnut Ridge city limits touch College City at multiple points, and Walnut Ridge already provides several services for College City, such as fire protection and billing for trash collection, Snapp noted in earlier comments.

Walnut Ridge currently owns, operates and maintains the water and sewer system in College City. In recent years, Walnut Ridge has also handled the mosquito spraying services for College City, Snapp added.

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