By Joel Phelps
A portion of the 1,000-acre “super site” purchased to attract industry will be planted with pine seedlings following a unanimous decision by the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County.
The acreage that will be planted totals 336 acres.
With a lengthy agenda, the EDCCC met Tuesday at the Arkadelphia Recreation Center. Among those topics was discussion of EDCCC land. Interim President and CEO J.L. Griffin told the 15-member nonprofit panel it had two options for the Gum Springs land, situated between Interstate 30 and US Highway 67. “We can clear it or plant it,” Griffin said. “I think we need to do something rather than just let it grow up.”
The site was purchased as incentive for the China-based Sun Paper plant to pledge its commitment to locate in Clark County. After Sun Paper backed out, the 1,000 acres is now being marketed as a “super site” with hopes to attract yet another industry to create local jobs.
Brian Kirksey asked Griffin whether the site’s eligibility for a super site has been determined. Griffin said “a little over 1,000” acres is required for actual super site status, and added he was in the process of getting the property certified as a super site.
The Arkadelphia Dispatch reported in February 2020 that the EDCCC had considered allowing the site to be farmed until another prospect emerged.
Allen Morgan, EDCCC member, said it would be “environmentally irresponsible … to leave [the site] as is.” Morgan, a managing partner with Hunter-Wasson Timber Services, said clearing the land and allowing it to grow back as brush would be a “hard sale” to an environmentally-conscious prospect. While planting the site would be “more expensive on the front end” and require an annual maintenance cost, Morgan said planting the site is playing the long game. “We’ll be better able to show industries what we have to offer,” he said. “I think we should replant it.”
A motion carried unanimously to replant the site with pine seedlings. Griffin estimated the planting to cost $85,000.
County Judge Troy Tucker has made high-speed Internet a priority. “Our objective is to make sure that we have Internet throughout every corner of the county,” Tucker said, “and we have to choose a provider to do that.”
That provider: South Central Electric Cooperative, whose most recent plight in “South Central Connect” is to do just that. The judge said South Central is “well on it” to provide countywide Internet services, and plans to partner with them to help secure funding to make it possible.
Brian Kirksey, South Central’s board president, said there are still “pockets” in the county without high-speed Internet. Kirksey added that South Central has received some additional funding, including state funding, to continue the cooperative’s efforts.
Project “Yellow Pine”
Not much was said publicly about a potential industry, but the CEO seemed to have high hopes that an unnamed prospect will choose to locate in Gum Springs. The powers-that-be from “Project Yellow Pine” have already made visits to the local site, and “they’re coming back” in mid-October to revisit the site. “That’s exciting,” Griffin told the panel. “We’re hoping they will let us know what they’re gonna do. I can’t speak a lot about it.”
Ouachita Baptist University/Road and street improvements
EDCCC member Dr. Lewis Shepherd of Ouachita Baptist University reported that enrollment at the private college broke a decades-old record, with 1,764 students enrolled. Shepherd added that the freshman class this semester is “an interesting class” because 26 of them are Governor scholars, 25 percent of them are first-generation students and another 20 percent of them are “students of color” … it’s the most diverse class we’ve ever seen at Ouachita.”
Shepherd reported that the graduation rate of four-year students is at 63.5 percent, and that the university has invested $12 million in student housing facilities that will be erected on North 10th Street.
On that note, Griffin asked the county judge for an update on the widening of 10th Street.
“Right now, as you know, from 10th and Pine north to Henderson Street where the traffic light is is two lanes,” Tucker said. “Beyond that it starts back to three lanes. We’re going three lanes to two to another three lanes” with the current bypass plans.
Tucker said he has submitted a letter to the Arkansas Department of Transportation regarding the bypass with a suggestion that the plans include the widening of 10th between Henderson and Pine streets. Tucker said he expects to receive a letter from ArDOT “any day” and anticipates it will be on board with those recommendations. “Henderson most likely will have to give up some right-of-way,” the judge said, adding he and others have been in talks with the Arkansas State University system and expects them to visit this week.
“With OBU and Henderson’s commitment, all we’d have to do is put up some cash money to make that happen,” he said. “There’s no better time to do it than right now.”
Tucker also shed some light on the potential of a new bridge spanning the Caddo River. “That is still being discussed,” he said, noting he’s had “several discussions” with ArDOT about it. “It has got to go before the [Arkansas Highway] Commission before that grant is awarded.” Tucker said he anticipates learning more after the commission’s November meeting.
Categories: City & County