Leaders of a petition drive to incorporate the small community of Little Italy in northwest Pulaski County say they have a budget plan covering law enforcement, street maintenance, disaster response and waste management duties.
Petitioners presented an outline of their potential future budget to Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde Wednesday, who delayed a decision on granting the community incorporation. He is expected to make a decision on incorporation at a later hearing.
While presenting the community's case for incorporation, Chris Dorer, of the Little Italy Incorporation Task Force, said the 220 petition-signers reached a new sense of civic involvement in the process.
“We registered 30 to 40 new voters who had become jaded over the notion of politics. They previously had never voted,” he said. “But they became registered so the they could be part of this historic moment for Little Italy.”
The Little Italy 2016 budget plan would consist of about 89,000 dollars in annual income from county sales and use taxes and state turn-back taxes. An estimated 29,000 dollars of that would cover the town's expenses. That's in addition to about 10,00 dollars in “start-up” expenses for 2016 that include costs of a first election and population certification.
Througout the presentation, Dorer and fellow task force member Kristy Eanes, laid out how a future town would pay for various city essential city services. They also pointed out that a town of their size would not be unique in the state. They said about 20 percent of municipalities in the state have similar populations. The population of Little Italy is estimated to be about 350.
Among those asked to testify during the hearing was Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay. He said 101 of the 29,240 Sheriff’s office dispatches went to Little Italy in 2014 or .00345417 percent of the total dispatches. The town would be required to pay an hourly rate of 25 dollars an hour per dispatch to the sheriff's office.
Dorer said the town plans to hire a part-time city Marshal for most of its law enforcement needs.
The community of about 350 residents sits atop Wye Mountain, just north of Lake Maumelle, a drinking water source to 400-thousand people. Central Arkansas Water is opposed to the incorporation. After petitioners presented the budget plan, CAW spokesman John Tynan said the incorporation would essentially un-regulate 25 percent of the watershed.
“A lot of time energy and effort has gone into establishing those protective water quality regulations and losing those in on fell swoop would be a huge detriment to water quality protection,” Tynan said.
But Chris Dorer said community members are committed to protecting the watershed. They didn't realize that the county zoning code would be dropped from the 8.8 square mile region if it were to become a town, he said.
“We didn't realize that was the case. We were operating under the auspices that we were operating a municipal government and that zoning code would stick,” he said.
Several compromises offered by CAW were unacceptable, Dorer said.
Dorer was a member of a Watershed zoning code task force that met for several months last year to decide on recommendations for altering the Pulaski County Watershed zoning code, first adopted in 2013.
Tynan said the entirety of the watershed currently lies in an unincorporated area under a county jurisdiction.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the proposed amount of the town budget (89,000 dollars) and misspelled Kristy Eanes' first name.