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Jail locations proposed

Land owners have put forward eight suggestions for the location of a possible new Crawford County Detention Center that would be paid for with a proposed county-wide sales tax.

Crawford County Justices of the Peace will decide Monday night whether to approve three ordinances that call for a special election on the issue of a three-quarter percent sales tax to fund a new $20 million jail.

A half-percent of the tax would be allocated for construction costs to sunset in 10 years, and a quarter-percent would cover continued operation and maintenance costs.

County officials still must decide on a location for the jail, and a public announcement calling for land proposals of at least five acres within about a mile of access to Interstate 540 was placed in three January editions of the Press Argus-Courier.

County Judge John Hall received the eight proposals and will provide them to JPs at Monday’s meeting. All proposals are a matter of public record and can be viewed per request at any time, Hall said.

Sheriff Ron Brown approved of Hall’s method of searching for an appropriate site, he said.

“I like what the county judge did; he opened up our options and he opened up options to the general public,” Brown said.

In the announcement, Hall’s office requested all proposals have sewer-water lines and three-phase electric already in place, and road frontage to either U.S. 64 or Arkansas 59.

Both Hall and Sheriff Ron Brown said costs and accessibility would be the top priorities.

Of the eight proposals, four are located on Arkansas 59 from Old Uniontown Road to the 1200 block of Fayetteville Road in Van Buren. One is on Arkansas 162 in Kibler, and the other three on U.S. 64.

Acreages range from 6.3 to a little over 21, and prices from $240,000 to $699,000. Infrastructure and any blights that might increase construction costs also will be taken into account, Hall said.

While Hall would not admit to any one preference regarding the proposals, he was open about what sites he would be against.

“I would be very concerned on locating the jail on Highway 59 north because of the traffic problems we have now,” Hall said, adding that emergency responders would be trapped during rush hours.

Brown preferred having a location on U.S. 64, he said, because of the access to I-540 and its placement between the counties’ two largest cities, Van Buren and Alma. A median crossover also would be “key,” he said.

Having a site that allowed deputies to be dispatched without having to travel through city limits would improve public safety, Brown said.

“I also know that costs are important,” Brown said. “This is dependent on if we can get a piece of property … at an affordable price.”

Though Brown said he has tried to distance himself from the decision process thus far, he feels it is important for county officials to have at least two options for the jail site as they move forward.

This would help prevent the price tag for any one property to “skyrocket” after being announced as the official location, Brown said.

JPs will be given a chance to tour the properties, Hall said, and he expects a decision about the location(s) to be made by the end of the month.

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