Our View:Focus needed on ACC/old hospital acquisition

Once again, congratulations Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless for successfully convincing the majority of us that these sales tax issues we soundly voted for is a integral part in re-establishing a necessary hospital here in our county. This is certainly a major step in bringing Baptist Hospital here, not only from the aspect of restoring emergency and critical care but also from a major economic standpoint. A brand new hospital facility, physicians, nursing and support staff play a critical role in economic development, and are key factors in the decisions business investors make in locating or re-locating in a community. Our soon-to-be new hospital will also be a major selling point for our local Realtors and contractors in their efforts to sell and built new homes, especially in West Memphis where new housing starts have dwindled to almost nothing over the last few years and pale in comparison to residential construction in neighboring Marion. While there was little evidence of much support from West Memphis for these two tax ordinances where this brand new multimillion-dollar hospital will be located, 5,307 voters clearly overshadowed the 1,604 who were opposed to Ordinance 1, and the 6,196 voters who said yes to Ordinance 2 as compared to the 1,230 who voted no. Now Judge Wheeless can give his full attention to finalizing plans to re-open the abandoned Crittenden Regional hospital in West Memphis and bring an estimated 140 well-paying state jobs to bolster Crittenden County’s local economy in the form of an Arkansas Community Correction women’s facility. It ceases to amaze us that Judge Wheeless has been the proverbial “Lone Ranger” in this second major development that will directly benefit this county’s largest city, where according to the latest unemployment figures show the rate at 5.2 percent as of December, compared to 4.6 percent statewide. And, despite the judge’s efforts and those of state corrections officials regarding the re-location of a women’s rehabilitation center there is a faction of naysayers who remain opposed to it regardless of the major economic impact it will have on not only West Memphis but also the entire Crittenden County area. During a recent public hearing on the matter that Judge Wheeless put together there were those who had the false perception the facility would create a crime issue not understanding that there are more convicted felons, dope dealers, gang members and juvenile delinquents roaming the streets freely and causing more issues than any problems this highly supervised rehabilitation center will bring to West Memphis. And, as far as the concerns over property values being negatively impacted, that is an issue this city has been dealing with well before there was any plans to bring this facility here. Unemployment, declining property values are the result of a poor economy, no hospital, lack of good paying jobs and a growing population of people dependent upon free or heavily subsidized government services. Based on the data, testimony and facts that have been presented by Judge Wheeless there is absolutely no reason whatsoever not to support this major economic development that we certainly hope can also be finalized within the coming days.

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