September 20, 2017 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp (from left), Arkansas State University Chancellor Kelly Damphousse and Imboden Mayor Chris Jones sign the lease agreements for land in both cities to be used for ASU disaster preparedness training.

Lease agreements signed for
disaster training facility

Arkansas State University signed long-term lease agreements Monday with the cities of Imboden and Walnut Ridge for land that will be used to build facilities for disaster preparedness training.

Both lease agreements are for 50-year terms. The lease with Walnut Ridge is for 100 acres of undeveloped land located at the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport at an annual rate of $12,500, and the lease with Imboden covers just over 183 acres at an annual rate of $10,000. The city of Walnut Ridge will pay the first two years of rent on the property at that location, while the Imboden location will be rent-free for the first five years.

As funding becomes available, facilities will be constructed on both locations that would support state-of-the-art training for Arkansas State students, as well as first responders and other emergency managers and providers from across the nation. Arkansas State currently offers a bachelor's degree and an associate's degree in disaster preparedness and emergency management, and a minor in homeland security and disaster preparedness.

"There is no telling what the relationship between Arkansas State and our friends in Walnut Ridge and Imboden means to the future of residents of our state and region," said Dr. Kelly Damphousse, ASU chancellor. "We hope that the preparation and training that takes place here saves lives and relieves suffering."

The Walnut Ridge Airport location will be home to facilities used in training for incidents such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, agricultural emergencies and community/urban emergencies. Plans also include the eventual construction of an education/research center.

"This is the perfect example of working together as a region," said Charles Snapp, mayor of Walnut Ridge. "Arkansas State needed a location, and Lawrence County joined its east side and west sides together to present two locations that unified our county and Northeast Arkansas even more than it was before."

At the Imboden location, training will be conducted for incidents such as a water rescue, wilderness search and rescue, utility emergencies and tactical training. An education/research center will also be constructed as funding becomes available.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Arkansas State and its board of trustees for looking our way when it came time to put this together," said Chris Jones, mayor of Imboden. "We are very humbled as a city, as a community and as a county, and we look forward to what the future brings."

"This is an exciting time," said Dr. Deborah Persell, ASU professor of disaster management and emergency preparedness, who has spearheaded the project. "The potential impact of our Disaster Training Site is limited only by our imagination, our will to act, our sphere of influence and of course, funding."

A resolution approving the lease agreements was passed at Friday's ASU Board of Trustees meeting.

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