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Tax rise on ballot in 1 Arkansas city

Early voting opens Tuesday on funds for fire agency, park by Debra Hale-Shelton | February 5, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Greenbrier residents will begin voting Tuesday on a proposed sales tax increase aimed at financing Fire Department renovations and construction of a new park.

Early voting will precede the Feb. 13 special election on the proposed 0.5 percentage point increase. The measure would raise the Faulkner County town's local sales tax to 2.5 percent and would generate an estimated $500,000 in revenue annually, Greenbrier Mayor Sammy Hartwick said.

Fire Department renovations are projected to cost $2.2 million, and park construction is expected to cost $3.8 million, the mayor said Thursday.

All but one-eighth of a percentage point of the new tax would end when the accompanying debt is paid, Hartwick said. That one-eighth of a percentage point would be used for operation and maintenance of the park.

Based on zero growth, the debt is expected to be paid in about 15 years, he said. But the mayor said he expects the city to continue growing and for the payoff date to happen sooner -- in 13 to 14 years.

Greenbrier lists its population on a sign leading into town at 4,701, and Hartwick said he expects it to reach 5,700 to 5,800 by 2020.

"The fire station hasn't had any major renovations in 40 years," Hartwick said.

"We're getting a lot of growth," he said. New residents "expect certain services to be upgraded. We want to help people with their insurance [related to fire coverage] if we can."

The city has a volunteer Fire Department but wants to "work our way into a full-time fire department," Hartwick said. That won't happen "anytime real soon," though, he added.

Greenbrier, about 12 miles northeast of Conway, has some small parks but nothing like the one Hartwick and others envision developing on part of 54 acres the city bought about three years ago.

"A lot of it won't be developed at this time," Hartwick said. Still, there are plenty of plans for if the tax measure passes.

Those plans include walking trails, a splash pad water feature, an area for sand volleyball, basketball courts, a large pavilion, picnic areas, a park for large dogs and one for small dogs, playground areas accessible to people with disabilities, and a fishing pond that would include a covered dock also accessible to people with disabilities.

Hartwick said the accessible-pond idea was a suggestion made during a meeting with people at the local senior-citizen center.

Plans call for the site to be named Matthews Park in honor of the late Percy Matthews, who was an agriculture instructor at the local high school and who was the city's mayor five times -- "always appointed, never elected," Hartwick said.

State Desk on 02/05/2018

Print Headline: Tax rise on ballot in Greenbrier


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