Little Italy Incorporation Now Up To Judge's Decision

Jan 14, 2016

The small northwest Pulaski County community of Little Italy now awaits a decision from county Judge Barry Hyde on whether it can become a town. A second incorporation hearing ended Wednesday after petition-gatherers finished their presentation to Hyde with plans to improve roads.

Chris Dorer of the Little Italy Incorporation Task Force said in summarizing the town's estimated 89,000 dollar budget, that 2016 expenses would total about 39,000 dollars, with about 16,500 dollars going to streets.

In addition to that, Dorer said a future town could pave as many as 6 currently private roads with up to 250,000 dollars in grant money offered through the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department's state aid street funds grant program.

“These are roads that the US Postal Service uses to deliver mail. These are roads that school buses drive down sometimes,” he said.

Dorer said roads maintained by the city could also benefit tourism to the area, which has been bolstered somewhat in recent years by increased interest in the area's history. Little Italy recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding by Italian immigrants.

Aside from roads, the petition leaders said they had letters of intent from two area fire departments to provide services and would seek to maintain a contract with Waste Management for garbage collection, with the hopes of introducing recycling services.

About 350 people live in the 8.8 square mile region under consideration. Of them, were 220 verified petition signers. 

Some opponents of incorporation, who had their first chance to present at the hearing before Judge Hyde, argued that increasing services like road maintenance would require more dedicated revenue sources . John Tynan, director of public affairs for the local utility Central Arkansas Water, disputed that Little Italy leaders had a sufficient plan for improving on services already provided by the county.

“The plan to fund those services, other than through existing entities that provide the exact same level of services that currently exist, there's no realistic plan to increase the services,” Tynan said.

Tynan said the per-mile cost estimates that petitioners had put forward for their road maintenance plan were lower than a formula from the Pulaski County Road and Bridge Department.

“So a very real, albeit unintentional situation exists where petitioners and signatures may have been collected under the assumption that no new taxes would be levied. But upon incorporation, there may not be any other choice but to increase those taxes to collect additional revenue to fund those services that are provided,” Tynan said.

Central Arkansas Water also opposes the incorporation because the region would be exempted from the Lake Maumelle Watershed zoning code, which is intended to protect the regional drinking water supply coming from Lake Maumelle.

Little Italy Incorporation Task Force member Kristy Eanes said during the presentation a future town council adopt an ordinance “exactly mirroring” that zoning code.

Hyde, who is serving in a quasi-judicial role in deciding the outcome of the incorporation petition, could not comment on when he would issue a decision. Other Pulaski County administrators present at the hearing said they weren't sure when he was expected to make a decision.