Wooster is becoming known as one of the fastest growing small towns in Arkansas. Every day, cars are backed up at the four-way stop, either headed south to work in the morning or headed north to this small bedroom community in the afternoon.
Although the city limit signs say Wooster has 860 residents, that still represents a 66.7% increase from 2000 when there were only 516 residents documented. It was estimated in 2016 that the population had increased by another 19.1% since 2010.
And the sign fails to account for the numerous people who have moved in the surrounding area served by the Wooster Water System. The recent Independence Day celebration drew 1,500 to Wooster Park with hundreds more scattered along the adjacent roads and fields to watch the firework show.
Terry Robinson, who has been Wooster’s mayor since 2007, attributed the area’s growth to the development of an adequate water system. In 1996, Wooster began getting its water from Greers Ferry Lake. Before that year, Wooster often ran out of water in the summers.
When Robinson was growing up, his father and several other local men would haul water in 50-gallon barrels from the Cadron Creek to their houses. In the early ‘90s, AMPI milk trucks might have to haul water from Conway to fill the town’s water tanks. There was a moratorium on new water meters.
“It was a glorious day when Wooster finally got an adequate water supply in 1996. This town could not have survived, much less grow, with the wells running dry every summer,” said Robinson.
Since 1996, 37 new subdivisions of various sizes have been added to the Wooster Water System which extends to the East Cadron Creek on the south and a mile north of Burkett Flat Road on the north. The water district spans from Shaw Bridge on the west to the Greenbrier city limits to the east, even providing water to residents who live behind Colt’s Quick Draw on Highway 65.
This population growth has strained Wooster’s water resources in recent years, especially with Wooster only having one master meter connecting it to Greers Ferry. As a result, over the past several months, a master meter has been added to expand the capacity of the system. Larger water lines will transport water from this new master meter to the new 250,000-gallon elevated tank that was recently constructed on Brannon Road.
The new lines will become operational within the month, providing more water to the system. Larger water lines are also going to be installed into the Summerhill Place subdivision and the Shaw Bridge Road area to increase the water pressure in those areas.
A larger water supply will make it possible for Wooster to continue growing. New subdivisions are already being planned to accommodate the many families who desire to move to the area. A great school system combined with the easier access to the interstate created by the new Highway 25 bypass has greatly increased the demand for new housing in the area.
Mayor Robinson has also been busy with another infrastructure project that will begin soon. Wooster will be connecting trunk lines to the Greenbrier sewer treatment facility located behind Immanuel Baptist Church in Greenbrier. This will provide sewer lines to those within the city of Wooster as well as those between Wooster and Greenbrier who wish to connect.
“I cannot say enough about how great Mayor Sammy Joe Hartwick and the Greenbrier City Council have been,” said Mayor Robinson. “Greenbrier built a treatment facility to meet the needs of future growth, so it has the capacity to provide services to us, operating with greater efficiency. They said we were all part of the same school district and they wanted to help.”
This regionalization of services will give Wooster the time it needs to develop its infrastructure so that eventually it can build its own treatment facility. Robinson’s goal is for Wooster to be able to save the money for these projects instead of having to borrow the money.
Having a sewer system should help the town be able to raise more funds. Businesses and retail establishments have approached Robinson in the past about locating in Wooster but would not commit because there was no sewer system. Septic systems require at least an additional half-acre of land. Having a sewer system will allow them to build on smaller tracts of land.
New retail businesses would provide a larger tax base for the city to use for operations. Wooster repealed its one-cent sales tax several years ago because it was collecting so little; it could provide more services by getting a portion of the county funds. More sales tax collections would help pay for increasing infrastructure as well as providing other city services.
Mayor Robinson is also working with Arkansas Highway Department officials to find solutions to the rush hour traffic that hits downtown Wooster every day. The highway department has already been studying the traffic patterns and is recommending a roundabout be installed where the four-way stop now exists.
Highway department engineers are working on a design that will be adequate enough to handle not only current traffic but future traffic as the area continues to grow.
Municipal officials serve four-year terms so Mayor Robinson will file for re-election to a fourth term in late July. “I want to finish these projects that we’ve started. I want to develop the infrastructure that is needed to take Wooster into the future. I was born and raised here; my heart is here and I want Wooster to prosper.”
Robinson would also like to see the building of a new city hall with a safe room. While an exact location has not been chosen yet, tentative plans have been drawn up. “Hopefully we can accomplish this—after we get these other projects completed,” he said.