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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

Jail may need special election

Friday, September 3, 2010

(Photo)
Fulton County Quorum Court met in special session on Thursday, Aug. 26 to discuss financing options for the proposed new jail project.

Architects Herman and Doug Lee from Lee and Associates joined the Quorum Court members, members of the jail committee and Johnny James and Carolyn Woehl from the USDA.

The cost of the project was the main topic of discussion, with county attorney Dwayne Plumlee emphasizing the need for solid numbers in order to move forward.

"We need to know cost estimates, how much the loan is, what the payment amount is going to be," said Plumlee. "Our sales tax, as I understand it, we have a 1 percent sales tax already in place. We will be dedicating a percentage of that towards debt service on the jail project, but before we can do that, we have to know what the debt service is."

Doug Lee clarified that based on the current renderings of the project, the cost would be two million, with $1.8 million for the actual construction and $200,000 to cover fees and other costs.

James referred to a letter dated July 20 informing the county that several items were needed before a decision could be made as to whether or not the loan would be approved.

"Items such as a financial history of the jail for the past five years, a class two environmental report, a financial feasibility report and a copy of the 2010 county budget are needed."

Further clarification on the sales tax mentioned by Plumlee was requested by two members of the Quorum Court.

"This sales tax was passed in 1985, and right now it's divided between the road department and county general," said County Judge Charles Willett. "We will have to go to the voters, and ask them to vote that we use part of this existing tax for the jail debt service. We won't be touching the part that goes to the county roads, only a percentage of what goes to the county general fund will be used."

"We were going to try to have it work for the general election, but everything would have to be in place 65 days prior to the general election in order to do that, and I don't believe that is going to happen," said Plumlee. "So we will have to bear the expense of a special election for this project. Basically, we will be asking the voters if we can merely re-direct the funds that are currently being collected into county general and have them instead dedicated to debt service on the jail project. We have revenues available to replace the money in the county general fund. When you get it up and running and operational, you'll find that it will save us money to do the debt service this way."

The payments on a 40 year loan at 4 percent interest would be $8,460. Willett outlined the county's plan to replace the monies that would be taken from the county general fund to service the jail debt.

"The money available to us to put back into County General to replace what would be dedicated to the jail project would be $4,000 a month from the public utilities board, $2,500 a month from the alloted monies reserved for housing prisoners outside of the county which is already budgeted and won't be needed once the jail is operational and we'll be using (three of the 309 inmates) which gives us $2,250 a month for a total of $8,750 a month," said Willett. "This is actual money that we have, and is more than enough to cover the monthly loan payment. Another thing we discussed the other day is a Build America Bond which Johnny brought to my attention. There's a 35 percent reimbursement associated with this."

"The IRS, if they approve it, would reimburse the county 35 percent of the monthly payment," said James. "With a payment of $8,460 a month, they would reimburse the county $2,961 a month. That would be a good savings there if it got approved."

Willett then addressed the group of citizens attending the meeting about the need for the funding.

"Our main message to the people of the county is that this is not a new tax," said Willett. "It is tax we already have in place, that will be used to fund this jail. If the jail project doesn't go forward, we're looking at spending at least $101,000 a year housing prisoners elsewhere. With a jail, we keep our jobs here, we keep our 9-1-1 system up and running."

James said he hopes to have word on the availability of funding in the next few weeks.

"The federal government fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and begins again Oct. 1," said James. "At this time of year, the Washington office pulls all of the money that has been allocated to all of the states which has not been used. As of this time, Arkansas has already used all of it's funds. So, in Washington, they'll be looking to see if there are enough funds left over from other states to fund projects like this. I don't know, at this point, how much money is left over from the other states. My state office did indicate that they hope to hear something in the next two weeks about funding availability."

In other business, Willett requested that the court appropriate $2,500 in reward money in connection with the vandalism of a county road grader in Mammoth Spring.

"Somebody shot five windows out of one of our road graders, and I'd like to ask that we appropriate $2,500 as a reward for information leading to the people who did it," said Willett.

The court agreed and moved to appropriate the funds. Sheriff Walter Dillinger stated that his office has a solid lead in the case and was looking to make an arrest shortly.



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