The land has been purchased but there’s a major thing lacking before the Arkansas State Police can start making concrete plans to move its Troop L headquarters from Springdale to Lowell: Money.
The money needed to build the new headquarters on 25 acres in Lowell that was purchased in 2011 must come from legislative appropriations, said Bill Sadler, ASP spokesperson. When the money is appropriated, planning can move forward to determine what all will go in the building.
“The Arkansas State Police has five divisions. (Discussions will involve) what are the needs in the area? There are a lot of decisions that have to be made before we can draw up a plan,” he said.
The new location will be more convenient to the public and is expected to offer the driver’s license and commercial driver’s license departments all in the same location, he said.
Kris Sullivan with the City of Lowell’s planning department, said they are looking forward to the new headquarters coming to town because it will bring more traffic to Lowell, which means more people wanting to eat, shop and possibly live there.
The ASP may not have to wait too much longer before receiving the funding necessary to construct the new headquarters. At least four local legislators filed General Improvement Fund appropriation bills that, if funded, would pay for all or most of the estimated $10 million that is estimated to be needed, said Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale.
The total amount that is projected to be available for General Improvement Funds is $300 million, state officials confirmed. Woods said a lot might have to come from that, including a short-term solution for the state’s Medicaid program, potential tax cuts and the Big River Steel mill planned for northeast Arkansas.
“We have big things we need to do,” Woods said.
Even with the needs, legislators are hopeful the new headquarters will be funded, he agreed.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, one of the legislators to submit an appropriations bill for the project, said there are a lot of good and worthy projects out there, including the Troop L headquarters.
Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, said the local legislators wanted to try and work together for the project. Even though the new headquarters won’t be in all of their districts, it will help their constituents.
“The state police headquarters is for the good of all of Northwest Arkansas,” he said. “This wasn’t a local project this was a regional project.”
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, said the state police need a new facility and that she agrees with the move to Lowell.
“I’m very proud of the state police and what they do,” she said. “The seriousness of it is that they need more room.”
DOLING OUT THE DOUGH
Brandon Sharp, administrator of the budget department at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, explained that General Improvement Funds are awarded every two years.
Essentially, the General Assembly can choose to support certain projects as an entire body and then the money that is left over is divided among the legislators to complete projects in their districts or ones they find of importance.
The projected $300 million General Improvement Fund balance comes from several places:
• $145.6 million left from Fiscal Year 2012;
• $45.9 million left over from the last biennium;
• $100 million that is expected to be left over at the end of FY 2013; and,
• Recouping from current year balances from various state agencies and the interest on those funds.
When a legislature passes an appropriations bill, that is simply the General Assembly approving the request. Appropriations bills are only funded if money is available.