BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
Tourism is a key component of our economy here in District 20. Local businesses, families and governments depend heavily on the economic activity that is generated by visitors who come here to experience our beautiful scenery and hospitality.
The Queen Wilhelmina State Park lodge was closed in March of 2012 so that a multi-million dollar facelift and upgrade of the facility could begin. We were promised that the completed state of the art facility would be open for business in July of last year.
That promise has turned into a string of broken commitments and failures. In August of 2013, Arkansas State Parks announced that the general contract was being terminated and that a new contractor would be on the job within 10 days. It’s now January of 2014 and more than 150 days since that promise was made. The earliest projected completion date for the project is now in late 2014 or early 2015. The ongoing job losses and economic impact of this situation are simply intolerable and it’s time we had some answers.
Last week I requested that a meeting of the State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee be held in Mena, that legislators tour the state park and have the opportunity to hear from and question all parties involved in the project. This meeting will take place on January 30 & 31. The terminated general contractor, State Parks administrators, representatives of the bonding company and other interested parties are being formally requested to appear.
The public is not permitted to question witnesses in a legislative committee meeting. If you have questions you’d like to see addressed please contact me or another member of the committee with your concerns. Members of the public will have the opportunity to testify and to take questions if time permits.
Everyone interested in the project is invited to attend the committee meeting. It is tentatively scheduled to begin at 1:30 PM at Rich Mountain Community College on January 30th. I’ll update when the location is confirmed.
Please direct any comments, questions or concerns to me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , US Mail at P.O. Box 2103 Mena 71953 or via phone/text at 479-234-2092. I appreciate the opportunity to work for you.