Our View: Payroll the least of community’s concerns with ACC plan

Of all the reasons people are giving as to why the old and abandoned Crittenden Regional Hospital shouldn’t be turned into a state-run rehabilitation center this one, from a West Memphis elected official, takes the cake. So seems Councilman Tracy Catt, who usually makes good, sound and rational decisions, is opposed to the Arkansas Community Corrections coming here because they pay their employees too much and he fears qualified applicants from surrounding communities with mediocre jobs and salaries will flock to apply. That scenario would drain surrounding small towns of their poorly paid employees which Catt is of the opinion a problem that needs to be seriously considered by Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless. The first question that comes to mind in response to this line of illogical thinking is why would any elected official want to deny a hard working constituent the opportunity to better him or her self and stand in the way of supporting bringing in good paying jobs and benefits? Furthermore, why would any public servant not comprehend the enormous economic benefit to not only Crittenden County but particularly West Memphis? What is at stake is 140 jobs paying an average annual salary of over $50,000 plus state benefits? And, let’s not fail to mention that the City of West Memphis has the most to gain from this proposed facility in that this rehab center will be shelling out nearly $20,000 a month to the West Memphis Utilities, patronizing local businesses, and many of its employees and their families will buying houses, paying sales taxes, property taxes, buying furniture, sending their children to local schools and much, much more. To deny someone the great opportunity to secure a better paying job without having to move elsewhere makes absolutely no sense at all. If this line of thinking is the case then why, in heaven’s sakes, does West Memphis pay Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish the great salary he is making to lure businesses and industries to the city that pay attractive wages and benefits? And why, we ask, is there a community college in West Memphis that is specifically geared toward training and educating students so that they can advance their careers and earn more money. During a recent council work session Catt said bringing a facility that has a $6.8 million operating budget with $3.78 million in payroll will drain small town police departments in the county of their officers seeking to better themselves. Oh, but this wouldn’t impact the West Memphis Police Department where certified law enforcement officers already receive comparable salaries, which itself is guilty of “stealing” police officers from lower paying jobs in nearby communities. During the meeting, Catt asked how many people will leave the jail (Crittenden County Jail) to work for the state and said, “Are we hurting ourselves on one end by helping ourselves on the other?” Judge Wheeless’ response was simple and to the logical point, “We don’t see any issues and aren’t concerned about the pay scale.” It would seem to us that West Memphis officials would certainly want to work with Judge Wheeless in his efforts to bring 140 well paying jobs to the community and enhance the economical level of compensation. Come on Tracy, you know better, and if it is that you just don’t want what Judge Wheeless is trying to do then just come out and say so rather than come up with some ridiculous reason such as the one you gave.

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