May 18, 2016 Edition

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College City set to
consolidate into WR

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

After the May 10 special election, which saw a high majority vote in favor of the consolidation of College City and Walnut Ridge, officials from both towns are moving forward with the next steps in the process.

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp said word was sent to the Secretary of State, the Municipal League and the East Arkansas Planning and Development District following the approval of the voters. This was to provide a legal notice of the consolidation and to seek a recommendation on how to redraw Ward boundary lines to equally distribute the property values and population in the new city limits of Walnut Ridge.

A committee of both Walnut Ridge and College City residents will be formed to review the state recommendation for a new ward map and present it to the Walnut Ridge City Council.

Once the new boundaries are approved, the county clerk's office will update its records to reflect the new precincts for future elections.

Residents of College City and Walnut Ridge will file for alderman positions in August based on the ward the residents live in. All council seats will be up for election regardless of boundary changes. The alderman races will be decided in the November election.

Snapp said while wards could shift across Walnut Ridge, a likely scenario would be for the northern part of Ward 1 to absorb College City and the southern part of Ward 1 to be split out into adjacent wards.

The consolidation only affects College City, which includes Williams Baptist College. The airport and the industrial park have been a part of the Walnut Ridge city limits since the 1950s.

College City Mayor Paul Rhoads said the transition should be fairly smooth with the general population not noticing much change to their way of life. "I think the changes will be hard to perceive for most people given that the two towns are already so intertwined. It will not even change the zip codes," he said.

After Jan. 1

Upon the beginning of the year 2017, College City will cease to exist. All assets and liabilities of College City will belong to Walnut Ridge. New aldermen will be sworn in.

Walnut Ridge fire protection and police jurisdiction will include all that was College City.

Residents of College City may choose to maintain their preexisting septic tanks after the consolidation or hook into Walnut Ridge sewer. Walnut Ridge sanitation will handle trash pickup for the residential route.

College City sales and property tax would adjust to match Walnut Ridge's rates.

The combined population will total over 5,000, which is the minimum population looked at by many retail and restaurant chains, according to Snapp. However, though somewhat limited already, the higher population will offer less grant opportunities for the city of Walnut Ridge.

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