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Benton County special elections underway in Garfield, Pea Ridge

by Mike Jones | September 9, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
In this file photo stickers for early voters sit in a container Friday during early voting in the primary election at the Benton County clerk's office in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Ben Goff)

BENTONVILLE -- Pea Ridge and Garfield residents are voting in special elections.

Pea Ridge is voting on whether to issue bonds to pay for street work and on a new 1% sales tax to repay the bond and provide additional money for the city.

Garfield voters are being asked to make a 0.5% sales tax dedicated to water system infrastructure improvements permanent.

Early voting is underway. Election Day is Tuesday.

Pea Ridge has 4,018 registered voters, and Garfield has 391, said Dana Caler, the Benton County clerk office's elections administrator/voter supervisor.

The elections are the county's fifth and sixth special elections of the year. Act 610 of 2021 will limit elections starting next year to four times a year: February, May, August and November in nonpresidential election years; and March, May, August and November in presidential election years.

PEA RIDGE

One-fourth of the revenue from the proposed sales tax would be used to repay the bond. The remainder would be distributed to the streets, fire, police and parks departments.

The sales tax must pass for the bond issue to happen. The tax is permanent and won't end after the bonds are paid.

The city levies a 1% sales tax, which was adopted in 1984. The revenue from that tax is distributed, by ordinance, to the Street Department, 40%; Police Department, 24%; administration, 10%; Fire Department, 5%; ambulance, 7%; Parks and Recreation, 6%; library, 5%; and court administration, 3%.

The 1% sales tax brought in an average of $1.2 million in 2019 and 2020, Mayor Jackie Crabtree said.

Paving streets, improving drainage and building sidewalks are among the plans if voters approve the bond issue and the tax. The bond would be for a maximum of $5.8 million.

Hazelton Road and Patton Street would be paved and upgraded to provide an east/west corridor. Sidewalks are planned throughout the town.

Other streets in the plan include Greer Street, It'll Do Road, Lee Town Road, McCulloch Street, West Street and North Davis Street. Specifics on each street are on the city's website.

Fire Chief Jared Powell said the department needs staffing and equipment.

"The fleet is aging. The air packs are aging out. The county purchased them 17 years ago, and they have about a 20-year life," he said.

Workers have slowly converted offices in the fire station into bedrooms and recently converted the community room to more bedrooms. Most of the work is being done by city employees. The department has received donations of materials and money.

Police Chief Lynn Hahn has said body cameras for officers, computer software, computers and stun guns are some of the greatest needs for his department.

Hahn said body cameras provide safety and accountability for officers and the public. He said there is an initial cost for purchase of cameras, as well as an annual fee for storage of data.

Hahn said the addition of a secure room at the police station for ammunition and firearms is needed. He said there is a secure room for evidence, but law prohibits intermingling the two.

A new jungle gym and basketball court for City Park on Hayden Road is among projects for which the city would use sales-tax revenue, officials said. Basketball goals need to be upgraded, and parking needs to be expanded, Street Department Superintendent Nathan See said.

GARFIELD

Garfield residents in March 2020 approved the 0.5% sales tax to help fund its water system. The tax is scheduled to end in March. The city will ask voters to make the tax permanent.

The tax has generated $76,600, according to city officials.

Revenue from the tax would be used solely for the Water Department. The department has one full-time and one part-time employee.

"We've fixed so many leaks, we've decided that's where we want to start," Mayor Gary Blackburn said.

Some pipe has been replaced, but there are old and deteriorating meters and other pieces of equipment that need to be replaced, he said.

The Garfield Water Department serves 269 customers. The average daily use of water in Garfield is 52,000 gallons, Blackburn said.

Print Headline: Bond issue, taxes on special-election ballots in Pea Ridge, Garfield

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