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Plans finalized for jail sales tax

Crawford County justices of the peace made final decisions on issues regarding a sales tax proposal for a possible new $20 million detention center during a called quorum court meeting Wednesday night.

JPs decided to go forward with a three-quarters percent tax, with a half-percent allocated for construction costs to sunset in 10 years, and a quarter-percent for continued operation and maintenance, according to JP Lloyd Cole.

“I think the half and the quarter sound reasonable,” Cole said. “It provides a shorter term and saves $14 million in interest to the county, so I’m very happy with it.”

In a nearly unanimous hand vote at the regularly scheduled Crawford County Quorum Court meeting Jan. 20, JPs agreed to the one-quarter tax for construction to be paid over a 20-year period.

But some, such as Cole, felt the length of the debt service on a one-quarter percent tax was too long and would cost the county too much in interest.

A one-quarter percent tax for construction would sunset in 2041 and cost the county about $17.7 million in interest charges on the debt service, according to a preliminary funding analysis from Stephens financial services. A half-percent tax will sunset in 2023 and cost the county about $3.6 million in interest.

Cole, who proposed the JPs pursue the half-cent instead of the one-quarter, said the decision change was a compromise.

“I’m glad that people came to their senses,” Cole said.

County Judge John Hall agreed, and said he feels residents will be happier with the choice.

“The JPs really woke up to the fact that this 20 years and $17 million was just too long to have to pay for the jail,” Hall said.

JPs also decided that the operations and maintenance tax would be set up to toward the jail needs, but also for law enforcement in general.

This allows any extra revenue from the tax, if it passes, to go for other needs the sheriff’s department may have, and could also free up some general revenue monies that now go for the sheriff, Hall said.

“It broadens the usage,” Hall said.

Both tax issues along with their ballot titles will be written up as ordinances by Ryan Bowman, a bond attorney with Friday, Eldridge and Clark, and be presented at the Feb. 17 Quorum Court meeting.

“I think JPs made the right decision,” Hall said. “I think the public will understand. Whether they vote for it or not, I don’t know.”

JPs have yet to choose a location or architect for the possible new detention center, but Hall said those issues would be decided before March 1.

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