Hempstead County possibly raising the sales tax for a new courthouse

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HEMPSTEAD COUNTY, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – A decision to move and renovate the Hempstead county courthouse without increasing taxes has turned into a  one percent sales tax increase.

Hempstead county judge jerry crane says last year, officials decided to move forward with renovations on the Farmer’s Bank building without a tax increase. 

That all changed this year when construction costs went up. now, officials have decided to put a one-percent sales tax for two years that is non-renewable on Hempstead county’s march third, 2020 ballot.

“What happened is the bid we got for construction or remodeling of the courthouse was higher than what we had thought it would be and they came back with a bid of almost three million,” Hempstead County Judge, Jerry Crane.

The Farmers Bank building could be the new courthouse depending on the outcome of the march election in 2020. 

The current courthouse was built in 1939 and is in a state of disrepair. leading to poor working conditions and health hazards.

Hempstead’s clerk of court Karen Smith says working in the old building has led to allergies and high blood pressure.

“I can go away from here for three or four days and never sneeze. Walk back in here and after a couple of hours, I’m sneezing again. And everybody’s that way. It’s just bad,” Smith said.

Crane says it will cost the city more money to stay in the old building due to heating and electrical issues, as well as severe mold and walls, are caving in throughout the building.

“It’s going to decay more, It’s going to, it’ll fall in more. It’s just to me it’s a public safety thing now,” Crane said.

In addition to the many health concerns, the current building’s age makes technological upgrades impossible. A county official says it’s time for a change.

“I think it will be one of the biggest economic pick-ups downtown Hope has had in years,” Hempstead County Quorum Court, Dist. 4 Ed Darling said.

Crane says he hopes members of the community understand the dangers of remaining in an outdated courthouse.

Once the vote is passed, renovations are set to begin and can take up to ten months.

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