SWAR community meetings held for tax proposal to fund new jail


ASHDOWN, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – Dozens of Little River County residents attended a town hall meeting Thursday night about a proposed tax to fund a new jail. 

County officials said the state has ordered them to have a plan to address deficiencies at the jail by this December. If that doesn’t happen, “Essentially we would be without a jail December, last day of December,” said Little River County Sheriff Bobby Walraven.

Many residents attended the meeting to listen. “To understand really how it’s going to impact our community,” said Tyler Davis.

A community advisory group studied the issue for over a year and recommended a sales tax. “The committee felt like there was no other option,” said Little River County Judge Mike Cranford.  He added that a 2013 renovation at the current jail was only a bandaid. 

“I’ve heard that we need to look at other options and look at grants, there’s no grants out there,” said Walraven.  

“The major deficiencies are that we do not have a kitchen, we do not have the ability to segregate prisoners based on their offense … we can’t house females,” said Cranford. The state is mandating there be a plan in place to fix the deficiencies. 

Three issues will appear on the ballot and officials said all must pass for the project to move forward. They include a three-eighths cent sales tax for 25 years along with a quarter cent sales tax for maintenance. A third measure would give the county the ability to sell a bond to pay for the construction. 

Officials said jail capacity would go from 24 to 70 with the ability to expand. 

“We really believe that this is for our success and survival of our community, we need a jail very much,” said Davis.    

However, some residents said they don’t plan to vote for the tax. “I just feel like they should find a way to fix it, maybe without raising our taxes,” said Geraldine Haskins. 

County officials said they just want residents to make an informed decision. All residents are invited to attend town hall meetings that are scheduled before September 10, which is election day. 

They include: 
July 29, Yarborough Community Center, Yarborough at 6:30 p.m. 

August 8, Foreman Community Center, Foreman at 6:30 p.m.

August 13, Ogden Community Building, Ogden at 6:30 p.m. 

August 15, Winthrop United Methodist Church, Winthrop at 6:30 p.m.  

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