- Associated Press - Friday, August 8, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Two Arkansas residents are pushing to make an area known as Little Italy in central Arkansas the state’s 501st municipality.

Chris Dorer, 32, and Kristy Eanes, 43, are leading a petition drive to incorporate the 7-square-mile rural area that’s home to about 400 people, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1msZD9T ).

A municipal designation for Little Italy requires 200 petition signatures from registered voters in the area, resolutions from two nearby towns and approval from the Pulaski County judge. The community northwest of Little Rock was settled nearly a century ago by Italian immigrants.

So far, Dorer and Eanes have gathered 97 signatures, and they have set a March goal to collect the rest. The duo said they want Little Italy to become its own municipality to preserve the area’s heritage.

“I want my daughter and her children to continue to enjoy this environment,” Dorer said. “It’s worth it to me.”

The pair held a town hall meeting last month. Don Zimmerman, director of the Arkansas Municipal League, attended to explain the process of forming a municipal government. He also explained the benefits and consequences.

“They were very divided, some very for it, some very against it,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said advantages include greater local control and receiving certain revenue from the state. Drawbacks include loss of road maintenance and police protection unless a community creates its own police force or contracts with an outside one. The area already has a volunteer fire department.

The last municipality to be incorporated in the state was Bella Vista in northwest Arkansas in 2006.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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