March 22, 2017 Edition

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Charles Snapp says
consolidation must wait

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp expressed his opinion that now is not the right time to pursue consolidation with Hoxie.

His statement, in full, reads as follows:

"Following a vote by residents of Walnut Ridge and College City in May of 2016 in favor of consolidating these two towns, several residents from both Walnut Ridge and Hoxie approached me and inquired if I thought Walnut Ridge and Hoxie could or should ever consolidate. I thought enough residents were interested in the possibility of the consolidation of the two towns, that I established the Economic Impact Committee (EIC).

"The EIC's challenge was to do an independent and unbiased review of the cost and potential economic impact on the City of Walnut Ridge, in the event petitions were ever circulated, calling for a vote to consolidate. The committee was not a 'for' or 'against' consolidation committee, but an independent committee that provided some interesting insights into the law, history and finances of a consolidated Walnut Ridge and Hoxie.

"The EIC did a great job and has accomplished their goal. They have presented their findings in two different public forums and have shared them on Facebook and area media outlets. Since the committee completed their task, I have officially dissolved the Economic Impact Committee and it's time to move forward with a response.

"I have reviewed the committee's findings and calculations several times. I have met with corporate officials, business owners and talked to economic developers, seeking answers and guidance regarding this possible consolidation. The EIC and I found three key issues that need to be addressed:

"1. Unity: The consummation of the Walnut Ridge and College City consolidation took place on January 1, 2017, and thus far it has been a smooth transition overall, and it's already provided benefits to both towns. However, in the case of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie, the transition would not be based on a mutual agreement, and may be hard fought, and volatile. I must admit, I've been shocked at some of the statements I have heard recently.

"For a consolidation to be successful; it must be based on a welcomed union and a mutual partnership looking for a better future for residents in both towns. It seems apparent, coming from the Hoxie political leadership, that the town of Hoxie desires to remain independent and does not desire to consolidate with Walnut Ridge. I respect that decision; and based on that fact, the EIC and I believe this would not be a situation for a successful consolidation.

"2. Finances: The EIC has stated to me and the residents of both towns that consolidation is feasible or possible, though the economic impact to Walnut Ridge is very concerning to both me and the committee. As Mayor of Walnut Ridge it is my duty and desire to act in the best interest of the City of Walnut Ridge and its residents. While Hoxie does have financial resources available, diminishing general fund revenue and other economic factors are troubling to me and the EIC, as to whether consolidation with Hoxie should take place.

"Hoxie needs the opportunity to independently increase and stabilize their revenue stream, which would in turn allow for more financial resources to address infrastructure issues, such as streets, drainage, and water and sewer lines. Walnut Ridge has been blessed to experience an increase in revenues the past five consecutive years, and with those growing revenues, plans to continue to address similar infrastructure issues and pursue more economic growth and development. I assure you, these issues are important to me, and a consolidation with Hoxie at this time, could jeopardize and hinder the accomplishment of the goals I have for Walnut Ridge.

"3. Population: There is no doubt that a consolidated population of 8,100+ residents would open doors for continued growth in the long run for a consolidated township, but I expect minimal short-term benefits from the consolidated population for the residents of Walnut Ridge. While the EIC has presented potential and possible benefits to residents in both towns, I do not see the benefits to Walnut Ridge residents as being substantial.

"While I sincerely respect the power of the people to vote, choose, and establish government, after much consideration of the information available to me, I must go on record as opposing a consolidation with Hoxie at this time. Furthermore, in the final recommendation of the EIC to me, the committee unanimously agrees that a consolidation with Hoxie could have a negative impact on Walnut Ridge given the factors stated previously, and should not be pursued for the immediate future.

"As much as I would like to see the two towns unified under one city government, I do not feel like now is the correct time. If the revenue streams and infrastructure deterioration in both towns are stabilized, and the leadership mutually agrees, then I can see consolidation of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie as a success and betterment for both communities. So, until we reach that point, I believe the 'Consolidation must wait.'"

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