Jail bonds, city races also fill November ballot
Election officials in Washington and Benton Counties do not expect long lines or long waits despite four Constitutional Amendment questions and a local issue of voting for a sales tax for county jails.
The much-publicized quartet of questions, three from the General Assembly and one of the voters initiatives, have been well discussed in this space. The only one this writer gives voters a cause to pause and contemplate your own opinion with is Issue 4 — the recreational marijuana issue.
Issues 1, 2, and 3 are easy. All should be voted down. No. No. No.
All those three are not necessary and are even potentially illegal and costly to the state further down the road.
But the counties in Northwest Arkansas — Washington, Benton and Madison — all have voting issues on the ballot concerning expanding or building new jail facilities.
All three affect a temporary sales tax — some backing bonds to facilitate the construction of these additional buildings — which affect your wallet Mr. and Mrs. Voter.
All three of the jails are overcrowded — no doubt about the issue.
All three have procedures in the court system, where there are people incarcerated who are too poor to pay their bails or those who simply would rather sit in jail than catch up on a delinquent traffic citation, pay their child support or face the criminal charge they have been accused of.
There are workable solutions to this bail problem, but sadly, the local prosecutor, sheriff, police chief, for local mayors cannot fix without help via laws, procedures, and funding from the state legislature.
And that’s the bottom line.
So, a sheriff with a jail full of people who cannot or will not make a simple cash bond until a trial date has little lee-way in who is and is not in the jail — by law — he is in charge of running .
Voters will be asked two questions on jail expansion in Washington County. One asked for a 0.25% sales tax to be levied until a $113.5 million dollar bond can be sold and proceeds of that sale be used to expand the county jail adding new jail beds and additional courtroom spaces and any additional building spaces, parking lots etc., to finish the projected project.
Voters on a separate issue will be asked to consider at $28.5 million issue to expand, build, staff and equip a new juvenile court facility and juvenile jail. This could be in addition to the one currently overcrowded near the same facility on the south Fayetteville campus near the county jail complex.
Benton County voters are being asked to approve a similar issue to expand their county jail.
Madison County voters are being asked to consider building a new jail facility and or expanding the one now operated near the courthouse in downtown Huntsville.
Again, critics of all three of this issue, say streamlining bail procedures, intake limits, criminal charges or non-violent issues, can eliminate the need for additional jails being built.
However, it seems, it is faster to build jail facilities than to wait on the charges in state law to make jails less necessary.
On the municipal front, there are some cities with some or a few municipal races scattered across the ballot.
The county election officials are ready for the Early Vote, starts Oct. 24th and will continue until Nov. 7th. Reminder, all early polling centers close at 5 pm on Monday, Nov. 7th.
All polling locations (now called polling centers) will be open at 7:30 am on election day and close at 7:30 pm
— Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.