Williams Baptist College has long called Walnut Ridge its home. Now, it’s official. The merger of College City into Walnut Ridge took effect as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Day.
“The merger will not only secure better services for our students, but also reflects a growing and positive relationship with our neighbors in Walnut Ridge,” said Dr. Tom Jones, president of WBC.
Voters in both cities approved the merger by a wide margin in a special election May 10, 2016. The Williams Board of Trustees endorsed the consolidation, and College City Mayor Dr. Paul Rhoads and Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp also backed it.
“We are excited to see all of Walnut Ridge move forward together,” Snapp said. “WBC has always been a huge asset to our community, and now we are very pleased to welcome them, and all of College City, as an official part of Walnut Ridge. This is a great sign of progress and cooperation.”
In many ways, the transition will be little noticed. Walnut Ridge was already the official mailing address for WBC and the rest of College City, and Walnut Ridge provided water and sewer service, as well as fire protection, in College City.
But there will be some notable changes in both towns. College City residents will now have full-time city police protection, plus a larger and better-equipped street department to deal with infrastructure needs.
The merger also lifts the population of Walnut Ridge above the 5,000 mark, which is considered an important threshold for attracting businesses to the town. The official population of Walnut Ridge will now be 5,338.
“We are thankful for Mayor Rhoads, Mayor Snapp and others who led the effort to effect the merger,” Jones said. “It is a positive step forward for Walnut Ridge and Williams Baptist College.”