January 4, 2016 Edition

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WR annexes College City

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The New Year brought a lot of changes to Lawrence County, one of the biggest of which is the annexation of College City into Walnut Ridge as voted by the people in a special election held May 10.

As the clock turned to 12 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2017, College City ceased to exist with its land, population, assets and liabilities transferring to Walnut Ridge. Aldermen for the newly consolidated Walnut Ridge were also sworn in at midnight and will represent the new wards as previously approved by the council at the June meeting.

Mayor Charles Snapp said the transition has gone smooth thus far.

"We still need to pick up all the records for College City, as well as go through the process of closing out accounts and making sure current accounts have the new mailing address, but other than a few small issues, the process has been relatively smooth," he said. "As the transition is finalized, if any problems arise, we will handle them accordingly."

Work still
to be done

Some items, like sales tax collection notifications, have been delayed as the Secretary of State had no record of receiving the paperwork from the county. Snapp said when the city became aware of this, the paperwork was shipped overnight in December. Once notifications are received, the sales tax will be adjusted to reflect Walnut Ridge's one percent city sales tax.

Fire Chief Frank Owens has been working with Bill Young, who worked part-time for the College City Street Department, to assess any drainage issues. City staff is also still working with different agencies on adjustments in franchise fees.

The state's official maps have been updated to reflect the new boundaries. Printed State Highway Department maps may not reflect the change for up to two years. The State Highway Department will also post new city limit signs when possible.

Population
updated

The city has received notice from the U.S. Census Bureau and the new official population for Walnut Ridge is 5,338. The increase in population will provide Walnut Ridge with an increase in state turn-back, as well as county, based on total population.

Snapp said while turn-back funds will help, the elimination of the duplication of positions between the two cities is the most important change as it will allow more efficient operation and provide additional revenue to improve the quality of life for residents.

What residents
need to know

College City area residents were mailed a letter providing them with trash pick up schedule and other information that might be needed.

Residents of the former College City will continue to have water and fire protection provided by Walnut Ridge, and Walnut Ridge police jurisdiction is extended to include the annexed College City.

Residents may choose to maintain their preexisting septic tanks or hook into Walnut Ridge sewer.

Sales and property tax of the newly annexed portion will be adjusted to match Walnut Ridge's rates. Additionally, those living in the annexed portion will now be under Walnut Ridge's ordinances and codes.

Previous
annexations
not recorded

While going through the process of filing the consolidation papers for College City and Walnut Ridge, Snapp said city staff determined there were two other annexations that did not show to have receipts from the Secretary of State.

County Clerk Tina Stowers and former County Clerk Billie Gail Dunlap are working with City Clerk Sharon Henson in an effort to be certain all past records are brought up to date with the Secretary of State and the Department of Finance. If it is determined that one or more earlier annexations were not filed, it is possible the City of Walnut Ridge population may be higher.

Tornado siren

An early warning tornado siren is set to be added to the newly annexed portion. Bids will open on Monday at 4 p.m. The Walnut Ridge City Council voted to approve up to $28,000 to purchase and install the siren.

Future
looking bright

The petition passed to make the consolidation possible was a community effort, and the future of the new Walnut Ridge is looking positive.

"The merger will not only secure better services for out students, but also reflects a growing and positive relationship with our neighbors in Walnut Ridge," said Dr. Tom Jones, president of Williams Baptist College.

The consolidation also increases the population above 5,000, which is a minimum number many businesses look for and will improve the city's marketability.

"I do want to thank those who have worked to make the transition a smooth one, especially former College City Mayor Paul Rhoads," Snapp said. "I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to the residents of the College City area and the students attending WBC. Welcome to Walnut Ridge."

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