Our View:Is city looking to derail county efforts on ACC center?

Based on what has occurred so far, it is becoming very obvious there are forces in play in West Memphis that are focused on derailing Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless’ efforts to bring a low risk state-run women’s rehabilitation center to the abandoned old Crittenden Regional Hospital that will employ 140 with an average annual salary of $50,000. We find it somewhat amusing and very interesting to note that while we’re hem-hawing around and bickering about the good and bad of having a low risk, state-run women’s rehabilitation center taking over the old and abandoned Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis, Pine Bluff officials are begging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop the Arkansas Community Corrections officials’ plan to close its facility there. What is as interesting is that Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth is circulating a petition and gathering community support not to close the facility there and has a proposed financing plan for making the necessary improvements at the Pine Bluff facility so as not to shut it down and move it to West Memphis. Oh, but it is entirely a different story in West Memphis where the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) people are pressuring West Memphis officials not to grant the special use permit that will allow the corrections facility to take over the old hospital where its previous operators walked out and filed bankruptcy. And, furthermore, there is an obvious absence of positive and active participation from West Memphis officials or leaders to assist Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless in finding an occupant for this old building that is located their city. A failed permitting process will definitely kill the deal, leaving Judge Wheeless with no alternative other than to shut off the electricity that has been keeping the old facility alive. Experts have said once the power is cut off, it will be nearly impossible that the facility will ever be able to meet current building code requirements leaving, taxpayers with the estimated couple of millions of dollars it will take to demolish the building. It will instantly become an unsightly eyesore sitting smack dab across the street from West Memphis City Hall and a magnet for vagrants, vandals and drug users. While Judge Wheeless continues fight the battle on the home front, Pine Bluff Mayor Hollingsworth is hoping the overwhelming support from her city and an appeal to Gov. Hutchinson that the facility will remain at its existing location. Hollingsworth has made it known that she is not willing to give up the nearly 140 jobs to West Memphis and is encouraged to know that West Memphis officials may reject the necessary permitting. If it is the will of the people in West Memphis to tell Judge Wheeless they don’t want the rehab center or the 140 jobs then the question we want answered is what can these naysayers bring to the table to create as many new jobs and bring another major business that will have as big of an economic impact?

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