BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
There’s a lot of false information being spread and rumors about the possibility of a new state prison in Polk County are continuing to run wild.
First of all, I’d like to remind everyone once again that the discussion of a state prison and the sheriff’s jail proposal are completely unrelated.
As I said at the town hall meeting, after I heard from a number of people who believed that Polk County could compete for the prison project proposed by ADC, I decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to know exactly what the project requirements are and to learn more about ADC’s plans for the facility if it is eventually built. Based on the formal criteria established, there are several sites in our local area that could potentially qualify for the project. Owners of a couple of them contacted me to offer them for consideration as potential sites.
It is a part of my job as your representative to inform communities about potential economic development opportunities. My role in these situations is to provide the public and community leaders with as much factual information as possible and to support whatever decision they make.
I called for a community meeting simply to provide local leaders and the public with factual information about the project from the ADC officials responsible for making the location determinations.
I’d like to reinforce a few key points.
1. ADC has no preferred location for their proposed facility.
2. No location will be considered unless a proposal is submitted by 10/24/14.
3. There are at least 4-5 communities that plan to submit proposals. Based on recent reports, some of them plan to include incentive packages that are out of reach for our community. This basically means that even if a local proposal was submitted the project would likely go to one of the other communities that is offering incentives.
4. The project has not yet been funded or approved by the legislature. At this time it is likely that I will oppose funding of the project due to concerns about funding of the ongoing cost of operations.
5. I don’t personally know of anyone or any community within 90 miles of Mena that is planning to submit a proposal for the project.
Judge Ellison announced last week that he does not intend to submit a proposal and listed the reasons why he does not believe it’s feasible to pursue the project. The Mena Mayor has also indicated that he does not intend to pursue the project. There’s nothing to oppose or to support because no proposal exists, has ever been planned, or is likely to be planned.
If I find another development opportunity that might be available to any of the communities in HD20, I’ll once again do my best to bring factual information to everyone who might be affected. It’s my belief that our communities benefit when we have as much information as possible. Knowledge is power and open discussion is healthy. I don’t believe in keeping the people in the dark about potential economic development opportunities and I don’t support back room decision making. That’s simply not how I operate.
My children are the 6th generation of my family to live in this area. I spent my childhood here and returned after a few years of living out of state because I wanted to raise my children here. I love this area because of who its people are and what it has to offer. It’s my home and I’m gonna work hard to see it continue to be a great place to live, work and raise a family for the next 6 generations and beyond.