BY LEANN DILBECK –
Multiple delays, a terminated contract, and a deep concern on its economic impact to the local region has spurred State Representative Nate Bell to request a meeting of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee regarding the $6.7 million remodel of Queen Wilhelmina Lodge atop Rich Mountain.
The two-day meeting will be held in Mena January 30 and 31, tentatively at 1:30 p.m. at Rich Mountain Community College. In his capacity, Bell is in the process of requesting leaders of Arkansas State Parks to appear before the committee and he will also request representatives from W.A.I. (Wade Abernathy, Inc.), the contractor firm that was terminated in August 2013, and representatives for the surety on the bond, Travelers Insurance to all appear before the committee. Testimony before the committee is expected on the first day with an on-site visit tentatively scheduled for the second day.
The meeting will be open to the public and Bell invites those who have questions for the parties involved to contact him with those questions. Only the legislators will be questioning the requested parties during the meeting. Those serving on the committee include: Andrea Lea (Chair), Butch Wilkins (Vice-Chair), Denny Altes, Duncan Baird, Nate Bell, John Catlett, Ann Clemmer, Jim Dotson, Prissy Hickerson, Debra Hobbs, Karen Hopper, John Hutchison, Allen Kerr, Josh Miller, Jim Nickels, Betty Overbey, Chris Richey, Wes Wagner, John Walker, Bruce Westerman, Bob Ballinger, Deborah Ferguson, Charlene Fite, Kim Hammer, Fonda Hawthorne, David Kizzia, John Payton, and Richard Womack.
The project suffered two delays before W.A.I. was terminated upon which, Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts said the agreement with Travelers stated that a licensed contractor would be on the job within 10 business days from the date of termination but to date, no new contractor has been publicly named. Work remains at a standstill.
“I’m not a fan of holding committee meetings all over the state but I believe the lack of progress and the unanswered questions surrounding the Queen Wilhelmina State Park project warrant an onsite meeting. The project should have already had a positive economic impact to our region and to date has instead had a negative effect due to lost tourism revenue. There has to be some accountability and oversight,”said Bell. The lodge is considered to be the crown-jewel for tourism in west-central Arkansas.
The Pulse will continue to follow this developing story.
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