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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/MIKE JONES Benton County Judge Barry Moehring speaks Friday to residents at Riordan Hall in Bella Vista. Moehring discussed a proposed courts building in downtown Bentonville and a special sales tax to pay for it. The special election is March 12.

BELLA VISTA -- Benton County Judge Barry Moehring met Friday with a group of voters who could determine a special sales tax election for a new courts building.

Moehring held his first Bella Vista town hall about the sales tax and election, but he has spoken to four other civic groups based in the city, including the Bella Vista Fly Tyers on Thursday.

Town halls

Benton County Judge Barry Moehring’s town hall schedule to discuss the special election and proposed sales tax is:

• Wednesday: Bella Vista District Court, 612 W. Lancashire Blvd., 6 p.m.

• Thursday: Pea Ridge City Hall, 977 Weston St., 6 p.m.

• Feb. 25: Lowell City Hall, 216 N. Lincoln St., 6 p.m.

• Feb. 26: Centerton City Hall, 290 N. Main St., 6 p.m.

• Feb. 27: Bentonville, Judge Robin Green’s courtroom, 6 p.m.

• March 4: Siloam Springs Library, 205 E. Jefferson St., 6 p.m.

• March 5: Rogers County Annex, 2111 W. Walnut St., 6 p.m.

Source: Benton County

Early Voting Info

Early voting will be held March 5-8 and March 11. Hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

There will be seven early voting sites — the County Clerk offices in Bentonville, Rogers and Siloam Springs and off-site locations at First Landmark Church in Bentonville, Riordan Hall in Bella Vista, the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce in Lowell and Reach Church in Centerton.

Election day is March 12.

Source: Benton County

The March 12 election is for a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase to pay for a $30 million courthouse. The tax would be for 54 months, according to documents. The county has approved a building design and site on Northeast Second Street in downtown Bentonville. The tax would equal a little more than 12 cents on every $100 in sales, Moehring said. Another $5 million would be spent to update the downtown courthouse.

Third-party support includes the donation of land where the building would be, a $2 million grant and a parking deck for up to 400 vehicles, Moehring said.

Bella Vista voters could well determine the outcome of the special election. Bella Vista had the highest voter turnout among the county's cities with more than 20,000 voters in the 2018 and 2016 general elections, according to information provided by Dana Caler, elections administrator for the Benton County Clerk's Office.

Bella Vista had a 54.5 percent turnout rate in last November's general election. The city has 24,722 registered voters. Bentonville and Rogers had turnouts of 45.5 percent and 46.2 percent, respectively.

In the 2016 general election, a presidential election, Bella Vista had a turnout of 76.5 percent of 21,364 registered voters. Bentonville and Rogers had turnouts of 70.2 percent and 71.2 percent, according to data from Caler.

There are 161,367 registered voters in the county, said Caler, who predicts a turnout of between 12 and 15 percent, or between 19,365 to 24,205 voters, for the March 12 special election.

Brent Smith of Bella Vista attended Friday's town hall. He liked Moehring's program and said he would vote for the proposal and encourage his friends to do the same.

Michael Kalagias with the Benton County Libertarian Party continued to say the price tag of the building is too much. He has attended other town hall meetings on the topic.

"It's designed to make a statement," he told the crowd of about 40 people. "It's a monument piece."

The new courts building would be 87,000 square feet in four stories and a basement. The top story would be finished later with two more courtrooms. There also would be a sally port and secure holding area in the basement. The building would have at least a 50-year lifespan, Moehring said. Work would start in the summer if voters pass the sales tax, and it would take about 24 months to complete the project, he said.

The courts proposal would consolidate the courts, add an element of safety and make it more convenient for those who go to court, Moehring said.

The circuit court judges are spread among buildings close to the downtown square and the Juvenile Judicial Center near the jail. Judges Robin Green, John Scott and Xollie Duncan are in the main courthouse. Judge Brad Karren is across the street in the annex building, and Judge Doug Schrantz is in a building on Main Street. Judge Tom Smith is at the Juvenile Center.

Green, Scott, Duncan, Karren and Schrantz would hold court in the new building, while Smith would remain at the Juvenile Center.

NW News on 02/16/2019

Print Headline: Courts town hall makes stop in Bella Vista

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