Baxter County to begin detention center expansion project
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (AP) — County officials, legislative representatives and law enforcement officers ceremonially broke ground recently on a 50-bed expansion to the Baxter County Detention Center, paving the way for construction to begin.
The jail’s expansion, which is estimated to cost $4.2 million to build, is being funded through a temporary, countywide one-cent sales tax presently being collected. Collection of that tax began in April and will continue through the end of September. On Jan. 1, 2019, a permanent quarter-percent sales tax will go into effect to fund the jail’s continued operation and maintenance.
Both measures were approved by Baxter County voters in September 2017.
“I really appreciate the confidence the voters gave us,” Sheriff John Montgomery said at the groundbreaking. “Getting a tax passed in Baxter County is not easy because we’re basically conservative and like our low taxes.”
The one-percent sales tax is aimed at capturing some of the summertime revenue generated by tourists and vacationers visiting the Twin Lakes Area. The first two months of collection on the sales tax have generated $1.2 million in construction revenue, the Baxter Bulletin reported.
“We’re basically paying for this as we go,” Montgomery said. “There’s no bond issue to be paid out over a number of years.”
The expansion would add an additional 50 beds to the current 100-bed facility. The jail’s population regularly exceeds 100 prisoners, and as of Aug. 19 held 125 inmates.
Adding additional beds to the existing facility is something that the county was overdue to address, County Judge Mickey Pendergrass said during the recent groundbreaking ceremony.
“The judge is right in that this is long overdue,” Montgomery said. “If you look at the jail roster every morning, you will see that we’ve got many more folks inside than we have beds. It’s a public safety concern, trying to maintain order over that many people in a small space.”
Actual construction on the jail expansion should take 11 or 12 months, project manager Don Abernathy said.
Construction on the expansion is split into 19 contracts, each one covering specific duties like site clearing, plumbing or painting. The county accepted 13 construction bids totaling $2.6 million in July and re-bid six contracts that were either rejected or failed to attract a bidder in July.
That second round of bids was opened Aug. 15, and Abernathy said he expected to have a final recommendation for winning bids on those six projects in a couple weeks.
“None of those are holding us up,” he said. “We got the ones to start (construction). We’re ready to go.”
The Sheriff’s Office does have a 24-hour video stream of the construction site for those curious how the construction is going.
Using last year’s monthly sales tax numbers as an estimate, the one-percent sales tax would raise about $3.4 million in revenue for the jail expansion. The quarter-percent sales tax is estimated to generate about $133,000 per month, and could be used to help cover the costs of the jail expansion if needed.
Information from: The Baxter Bulletin, http://www.baxterbulletin.com