The Faulkner County Quorum Court Roads Committee had a discussion Tuesday night about whether or not the county should consider moving forward with a Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority with neighboring Perry and Conway counties.
The RITA would be an entity to represent the region “for the purpose of acquiring, equipping, constructing, maintaining and operating regional intermodal facilities,” according to a draft ordinance.
Chairman of the road committee Justice Steve Goode voiced some concerns, including the number of appointed members on the RITA board who would be from Faulkner County. As currently drafted, the agreement to form the RITA shows 13 board members: five from Faulkner County, four from Perry County and four from Conway County.
Goode emphasized how much he respects the other counties, but he said he felt these were issues he had to bring up as a representative of Faulkner County.
“For years Perry County and Conway County have made my living,” Goode said. “But I don’t understand the makeup of the board. Faulkner County has the population, we will have the airport site, we have the rail site, we have the money ... Why in the world would we give the other two counties the power to override the county that was pretty much bringing — from my perspective — everything to the table?”
State Sen. Jason Rapert said many aspects of the RITA — including the board — are up for debate and can be changed before a county chooses to join. Rapert also said he was initially in favor of a board with the number of members proportional to the population of the counties they represent when the draft was being written.
Don Bradley, UCA professor of marketing and executive director of the Small Business Advancement National Center, spoke on behalf of the RITA, saying Perry and Conway counties bring different things that could benefit a regional entity.
“We wanted a super site, which Conway County would give us because they have the land across the cavern we need,” he said. “Perry County has the land on the other side of the river that we need. With those three counties we would be one of the few places in this country right now that could provide a super site.”
Later in the regular Quorum Court meeting, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said he was glad hard questions were being asked before the county moves either way.
“I’m excited because, even if they vote not to participate in those entities, we will be so much more prepared as a county to proceed with transportation in our future and for the future of our children,” he said. “That will not be an uninformed decision.”
Additionally, Rapert asked the committee to take as much time as needed to make a sound decision and to ask other counties involved in RITAs how things have worked out.