BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's justices of the peace voted to provide $113,000 for the Northwest Arkansas Council to continue its covid-19 vaccine campaign.
The Committee of Whole discussed the matter Tuesday night.
Ryan Clark, council executive director, told the justices the council is trying to show the impact of not getting vaccinated and ending up covid-19 positive in a hospital and on a ventilator.
The total cost of the campaign is $1.2 million. Benton County's portion is $113,000 with the remaining coming from other entities in Northwest Arkansas.
Clark said nearly 50% of the eligible people in the state have been vaccinated. He said they are trying to focus on people who may be willing to be vaccinated but had not yet received any of the three vaccinations.
Justice Joel Jones supported the measure, but he was concerned whether the campaign will be successful and whether the county will get any of the money back.
Clark agreed with Jones about messaging and that previous efforts may have fallen on deaf ears.
"The communication will be different, but it has to be effective in the messaging," he said.
Clark said he is willing to come back and provide updates to the quorum court.
Justice Tom Allen said he planned to vote in favor of the request but urged Clark to be fully transparent and include multiple opinions concerning the vaccine in the campaign.
It is important to be proactive in discussing the reality of the vaccine, Clark said.
He noted a celebrity can tweet out something about the vaccine and 5 million people will then say they will not get the vaccine.
Nicki Minaj, a rapper, recently sent a tweet about her cousin's friend being impotent after taking the vaccine.
Justice Mike McKenzie said he has been vaccinated and is in favor of the request. He urged Clark to focus the campaign on answering people's questions because most of the unvaccinated people McKenzie has talked with said they are concerned about the time it took to develop the vaccine.
The justices voted 11-4 in favor of the request.
The $113,000 will come from money from the American Rescue Plan.
The justices also voted to declare a vacancy on the court with the resignation of McKenzie.
McKenzie recently announced his resignation after he and his wife bought a home in Bentonville outside his district.
District 1, McKenzie's district, covers the east side of the county including Beaver Lake. McKenzie has been on the Quorum Court for six years. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will appoint a replacement.
County Judge Barry Moehring expects it to take between 30 to 60 days before the governor makes the appointment.
The items will be before the justices for Quorum Court approval at the Sept. 30 meeting.
Benton County’s justices of the peace approved at Tuesday’s meeting the employee pay proposal that will provide payments of $2,000 for full-time employees and $1,000 for part-time employees. The estimated cost is $1.5 million and will come from the American Rescue Plan, which provides $350 billion in federal money for eligible state, local, territorial and tribal governments nationwide, according to the county. The county will receive a combined $54 million — $27 million a year over the next two years.