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County Leaders Discuss Economy

Posted on December 12, 2012

Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on December 13, 2012.

By: Dave Showers

If infrastructure underpins economic vitality, then amenities engender a quality of life that spurs prosperity.

That hand-in-glove relationship was discussed Wednesday during the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce?s Economic Outlook Luncheon at the Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover.

Strong Mayor Daryell Howell talked about his community?s plans for the 1-cent sales tax voters approved in October, saying the revenue will pay for new water lines and the repaving of streets. Norphlet Mayor Jim Crotty updated the audience on a $1.5 million upgrade to the town?s water-and-sewer system, which he said will be completed at the end of the year.

He also talked about quality of life issues, specifically punching up the town?s Christmas-time atmosphere with an ice-skating rink or Ferris wheel. He said the ethos of cooperation shared by the county?s leaders make those projects a possibility.

"Anytime there?s a desire to do something like that in Union County, the money will be there to do it,? Crotty said.

Howell echoed the sentiment, saying other community leaders have been responsive when he?s asked for help.

"Union County feels like a community,? he said. "I?ve been able to pick up the phone and get support for whatever issues we have in Strong. It?s a really positive thing for our community.?

Huttig Mayor Tony Cole talked about his plans to bring a water park to his town. He told the audience he?s already received the blueprints and layout.

"One of the greatest things we need is recreation for our children,? Cole said. "A water park could be a great recreational area not only for Huttig but for all of Union County.?

He explained how beautification was at the fore of his first-term agenda, crediting that focus for allowing him to avoid sanction from the state ethics commission. Its three-month investigation found probable cause that Cole violated state law by not reimbursing the city for deposit and rental fees associated with the use of city equipment on his property.

A city employee used the equipment to clean up the property after Cole?s home burned to the ground June 23.

"We beat the ethics commission because of beautification,? he said. "My goal was to clean Huttig up, and we?re on the way to doing that.?

The ethics commission cited the absence of a written policy concerning the use of city equipment as its rationale for not sanctioning Cole.

In keeping with the quality-of-life thread, El Dorado Mayor Frank Hash touted a $50 million plan for the renovation, expansion and remodeling of the historic Rialto Theater and development of a downtown theater and arts district. The city has pledged $9 million toward the project, with the Murphy Foundation committing another $5 million.

"El Dorado is absolutely popping right now,? he said.

In other business:

? The chamber announced Incoming board members for the 2013-15 term: Sam Allen, Hope Landing; Scott Fife, Southern Bancorp; George Garten, Lion Oil; Angela Gates, Deltic Timber;  Rhonda Jones, Cross Oil; Jaime McConathy, SouthArk Center for Workforce Development; Allen Meadows, United Insurance; Carl Sivils, Bancorp South; Kyle Swift, MCSA; Chris Webb, Anthony Forest Products.

Retiring directors are: Ruby Green, Victory Bible Church; Kent Harrell, El Dorado Printing; Rachel Scriber, MCSA; and Chase Sutton, Shaw Mid-State Pipe Fabricating. "