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story.lead_photo.caption West side of the Benton County Courthouse May 25, 2016. ( Flip Putthoff)

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's Quorum Court unanimously approved resolutions supporting county law enforcement and the Bill of Rights on Thursday night.

The resolutions also passed unanimously through Committee of the Whole.

Justice of the Peace Debra Hobbs was the sponsor of the law enforcement resolution first brought up at June's Quorum Court meeting. The court passed an updated resolution with two sections from her original version taken out.

The Bill of Rights resolution was sponsored by Justice of the Peace Michelle Chiocco. The resolution grew out of a proposed Second Amendment/Bill of Rights sanctuary ordinance submitted in January by members of the Libertarian Party to the Committee of the Whole.

The Quorum Court also approved using reserve to pay off two loans and gave its OK for money an expansion to the Quorum Courtroom.

The county decided in 2018 to finance election equipment and a radio system.

It borrowed $2.47 million for election equipment, Brenda Guenther, comptroller, previously said. The radio system was budgeted for $3.75 million and the county financed $2 million, Guenther said.

Both are five-year loans. There is a balance of $247,020 on the election equipment and $1.6 million on the radio system, Guenther said. Payments are due once a year.

The payment for the election equipment has been made this year. November would have been the due date for the radio system payment, Guenther said.

The state reimbursed the county for half the cost of the election equipment in 2019, Guenther said.

The county now will finance $3.1 million to expand the courthouse. The county secured the loan from Regions Bank for five years at 1.59% with no prepayment penalty, Guenther said. The court approved that financing plan Thursday night.

A new courtroom is needed for Christine Horwart, who was elected in March and will be the county's seventh circuit judge. She takes office Jan. 1. The Arkansas Legislature added the judgeship to assist with the increasing caseload.

The expansion would add 5,500 square feet to the downtown courthouse. The county would demolish the one-story section behind the courthouse once housing the coroner's office. A two-story addition is planned on the site with a lobby area and restrooms on the first floor. Horwart's courtroom and office area would be on the second floor.

Included in the court expansion cost is $231,783 to repair the courthouse annex where Circuit Judge Brad Karren holds court, according to documents. The annex is across the street from the main courthouse.

The plan is to have the whole project wrapped up before the end of 2021, County Judge Barry Moehring said.

The Quorum Court also approved spending $100,000 to expand the Quorum Courtroom.

The Quorum Court meets in Circuit Judge Robin Green's courtroom to meet social distancing requirements because of covid-19.

The Quorum Courtroom expansion involves eliminating the east wall and adding about 800 square feet of space to make the room roughly 2,000 square feet, Moehring said. The courtroom is on the third floor of the County Administration Building.

Improved video and audio conferencing as well as livestreaming capability will be part of the expansion, Moehring said.

The county also could use the expanded room for early voting, he said. The County Clerk's Office on the second floor of the administration building is an early voting polling center.

More News

Court action

Benton County’s Quorum Court met Thursday and approved:

• Reappointing Robert Bracy and Terry Maienschein to the Planning Board.

• Elections be held Nov. 3 for the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages in Pea Ridge and Garfield.

• Participating in the Tax Back program for Movista Inc. of Bentonville.

Source: Benton County

Mike Jones may be reached by email at mjones@nwadg.com.

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