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Editorial: Breathe Deep


April 10, 2012 by Steve Winkler

West Fork, Arkansas

Information is the oxygen of the modern age” – Ronald Reagan

Many area residents are excited about the prospect of a large grocery chain complete with gas, fresh produce and what many welcome most, a pharmancy, coming to West Fork. It will be the biggest commercial project ever developed in the town.

If you’re not holding your breath and knocking on wood, you should be. We all know, “there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip.” In this case, given the track record of West Fork in landing a substatantial development project, residential or commercial, citizens have a right to be concerned.

Standing between the cup and lip in this project is plenty of potential slipage. The town has a newly commissioned planning commission that the city council evidently doesn’t have much faith in judging by their recent vote to override a planning commission zoning decision.

Then there’s Utility Superintendent, Butch “Many Hats” Bartholomew, the darling of the council who provides builders with a one page building permit that lacks basic information about the project. The Dollar General application check list of 16 items was partially hand written. (see October, 2011 Council Minutes). The guys building a 32,000 square foot building might want more specific direction from the town. ..or not.

It’s probably safe to say that sometime during the construction process there might be a need for some electronic communication between the builders and the city. This may prove difficult; Batholomew doesn’t have a computer in his office.

But that’s not our concern. The Observer is tasked with providing the information the public expects from a free press. So here we go

Below is a portion of the official account of water meeting drawn from unapproved minuets included in the April packet to councilmembers (minutes are customairly approved at the next meeting) followed by the Observer’s observation.

What the minutes said happened.( Click here to view the entire minutes of the meeting)

The West Fork Water and Wastewater Commission met Wednesday April 4, 2012 at the city administration building for a regular meeting.

Members present: Mr. Virgil Blackmon, Mr. Mike Mitchell, Mr. Joe Toher, and Mr. Andy Baughman

Item #

10. Commission reviewed the consumer report on lead and copper sample testing.

11. Commission was informed that there is no information to update concerning the Harps project.

What the Observer saw and heard happening had more details:

All the commission members were present. Also in the room were council members Joan Wright, Ed Stout and Charlie Rossetti. “Butch” Bartholomew” lead the meeting. Kristie Drymon, City Treasurer and water department office manager took notes. The Observer was there as a representative of the public.

Item 10. After Bartholomew presented the results of the lead and copper testing report he commented that the State required the certification documentation be kept for 12 years. Commissioner Joe Toher asked if these records were stored digitally. After a pause, Bartholomew answered that paper records are kept in file cabinets at two locations in case “something happens to one.” Toher asked about available space. Bartholomew replied that a space was available at the city shop, adding, “We’ve been able to handle that part pretty well.”

Item 11. Utilities Superintent Bartholomew updated the commission members on the Harp’s project. He told the commissiners that the project engineers for Harps informed him that they needed to raise the access road which would also require the utility pipes to be raised. There was some discussion about who would pay. Bartholomew said the developers were responsible, noting also that they wanted “more land.” The developers also had concerns about flooding. The problem wasn’t from the creek on the property, Bartholomew said, but rather from water coming down Hwy 170 (Phillips St.).

There was no mention at the meeting of the vacent spot on the commission.

The Observer thinks this information is in the public’s interest. You can breath in this information because, in Arkansas, government meetings and the information they spawn are available to every citizen, like oxygen.

Steve Winkler

Steve Winkler is the publisher and editor of the Observer. Email him at

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  1. My wife and I moved to West Fork about 3 yrs ago. What was supposed to be a search for a place in the woods for a weekend get away, and ended up finding the house of my wifes dreams. She dreams? I learn something new every day about her, even after 9 years of marrage.
    We have attended a couple council meeting, the most remembered one being the one when the citizens wanted answers to the water issue.
    As it is, I still under stand we are losing water with no change or solution to the issue.
    I read about the possible Harps store, but I do not see it happening since all I read is why they can’t or what the city will have to do to make it happen. No positive input, not “so how do we make it happen”. As most things if the citizens don’t care enough to ask more questions then nothing will improve.
    I hope West Fork does get a Harps, would like to hear from others why we shouldn’t. I do have the ability to change my mind and even admit it.
    It all comes to the same old story. Once a person gets into an office they forget to ask “the people” what they want. It always turns out what they want,and not what is best for the citizens.
    Maybe most in West Fork do not want a Harps. How do they know unless the go out an ask.
    Over all my wife loves it here, it beats living in Fayetteville.

  2. Johnny Bowen says:

    Steve, try using spell check! I counted six misspelled words in this article.

    Sorry you quit publishing the Observer in print. We miss all the details not available in the digital version, like police reports (we like to know who’s been causing mischief in the neighborhood.)

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