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JPs to meet on county jail

Crawford County Quorum Court has been called to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss a ballot title and other issues regarding a sales tax proposal for a possible new $20 million detention center.

Two things need to be determined at the meeting - who will control the portion of the money from the proposed sales tax meant for continuing operations of the jail, and if justices of the peace are sure they want to go ahead with the one-quarter percent tax for construction, said County Judge John Hall.

Once JPs pass the tax issue, it will then be put to voters on the primary election ballot May 20.

County officials are against a deadline to decide on the tax proposal, form it into an ordinance and formally pass it in time to have it on the primary ballot.

There must be at least 70 days between the date the ordinance passes and is given to the election commission, and the date scheduled for the vote, Hall said. Hall is hoping to pass the ordinance at the Feb. 17 meeting, he said.

“Right now we’ve got to get the ballot proposal and get it together,” Hall said. “The rest of these things we can figure out later.”

By “things,” Hall is referring to the fact that JPs have yet to decide on a location or architect for the possible new detention center.

In a nearly unanimous hand vote at the regularly scheduled Quorum Court meeting Jan. 20, JPs agreed to the one-quarter tax for construction to be paid over a 20 year period. But at least one dissenter - JP Lloyd Cole, head of the jail committee - feels the topic needs further discussion.

“I don’t think the final decision has been made yet,” Cole said after the Jan. 20 meeting, adding that a higher tax would pay off bonds more quickly with less cost to county residents in interest.

A three-quarter percent tax would sunset in 2020 and cost the county just under $24 million in tax revenue toward the debt service for construction, according to a preliminary funding analysis from Stephens financial services. A one-quarter percent tax would sunset in 2041 and cost the county about $39.5 million in tax revenue.

Also under debate is the revenue from the one-quarter percent for continuing maintenance of the detention center.

JPs must decide whether the tax money would go to an operations and maintenance fund to be allocated by the sheriff, or to the county’s Public Safety fund to be allocated by the Quorum Court. This decision is necessary to form the bond title for the tax issue ordinance.

All county budgets are approved by the Quorum Court.

Kevin Faught with Stephens financial services will be on hand to answer questions from JPs about estimated costs for funding the proposed jail.

Ryan Bowman, a bond attorney with Friday, Eldridge and Clark will answer questions regarding the bond title.

The meeting will be at the Crawford County Circuit Courtroom No. 2, 220 S. Fourth St., in Van Buren.

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