March 15, 2017 Edition

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Hoxie committee
holds first meeting

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Keep Hoxie Hoxie Committee held its first meeting Thursday night. The committee was formed at the last Hoxie City Council meeting by Mayor Lanny Tinker and its members are Chair Sherry Moore, Kerrie Hancock, Jerry Decker, Milena Smith, Marlyn Tate, Darrell Pickney and Lida Tinker.

With over a dozen Hoxie citizens present, the committee discussed what its purpose is and what they are going to do to assess outcomes that impact Hoxie should it consolidate with Walnut Ridge.

According to the committee's mission statement, it will focus on economic impact, community identity, job loss and other relevant information, which will then be presented to citizens.

Lida Tinker was appointed secretary and discussion began with Terrell Downing, who has prepared Hoxie's financial reports for the past 15 years, presenting to the committee.

"In the last 15 years, the city of Hoxie has never had trouble making the payroll or paying a bill," Downing said. He also confirmed that he was not aware of any time since 2011 that the city had revenue that was less than its expenditures in contradiction to the Walnut Ridge Economic Impact Committee findings.

Downing added that he wasn't sure where the Walnut Ridge committee got its figures.

The figures presented by the Walnut Ridge committee, which were limited to the general fund, were reported to be from state legislative audits, which are open to the public and can be viewed at www.arklegaudit.gov/our-reports/search-audits/.

Mayor Tinker noted that figures can always be manipulated, but said bank accounts don't lie. Confirming that Hoxie has $1 million in its accounts.

He also noted that Hoxie has been able to maintain a reuse fund, which recently invested $150,000 in land for commercial development in the commerce development.

The reuse fund has benefited businesses over the years such as the Hoxie Plaza, Ace Auto Parts, Ray J's, Ed's Tire Shop and more, according to Mayor Tinker.

"We are set better than we ever have been," he said, adding that the consolidation talk is hindering development in Hoxie.

Darrell Pickney, a late appointee to the committee after he attended the last city council meeting and spoke on the need for information, said that if a consolidation were to happen, that land and those funds would still be there.

He added that he is happy that the city is financially solid and he is proud of the administration for its work, but still doesn’t like what he sees when he drives through Hoxie.

"When times are tough, you don't fix roads. There's lots of ways you can make a budget balance," Pickney said.

While it's been stated that a consolidation would allow excess funds to be used on infrastructure, Mayor Tinker said that the money Hoxie has in the street fund right now would only pave about 1.7 miles of Hoxie's 130 miles of road.

Alderman Larry Couch, who was at the meeting as a guest, mentioned that Walnut Ridge will need a new wastewater plant soon, which is expected to cost about $5 million.

Mayor Tinker said that a lot of the savings reported would be due to reduction of staff and loss of jobs.

Danielle Russell, a lifelong resident of Hoxie, said that every city has issues maintaining roads, managing staff and keeping up infrastructure. "Those are not issues for consolidation," she said.

After attending the public meeting held by the Walnut Ridge committee, she said the committee has done a good job and the meeting was very respectful, but it didn't cover pride.

Russell said as much as people on the outside or people who didn't grow up in Hoxie won't understand, she doesn't want to lose her home.

Moore said that Hoxie has a rich history. She said that Hoxie was the first one there when the railroad came through and Hoxie School was the first to integrate.

"We want to keep our identity," Moore said.

The next meeting will be held March 28.

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