November 04, 2015 Edition

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Special election is Tuesday

Darrell R. Smith of Walnut Ridge was one of the first to cast his ballot in the special election regarding a proposed sales tax to fund construction and maintenance of a new jail for Lawrence County. Early voting, which began Tuesday, will continue through Monday in the county clerk's office. As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, 108 voters had cast ballots. Election day is Tuesday.
TD Photo ~ Megan Heyl

Lawrence County voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to consider a half-percent sales tax to fund the building and maintenance of a new jail for Lawrence County.

The decision to ask for a sales tax came after the state's Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee found 11 deficiencies with the county's present 51-year-old jail, which is located within the courthouse. The county has been put on notice that the 42-bed jail will have to close unless the county addresses the issues.

The proposed half-cent tax would raise the county's sales tax rate from 2 percent to 2.5 percent. The sales taxes would allow the county to issue $9.26 million in bonds to pay up front for the construction and furnishing of the new facilities.

The total cost to build the new jail is estimated to be $8.3 to $8.4 million with the sheriff's office costing some $160 per square foot, while the jail area would cost approximately $300 per square foot to build.

If approved, the sales tax would go into effect on April 1, 2016, and construction of the jail would take approximately two years.

Voters will be asked to vote on two separate issues. Once the debt is paid, in approximately 22 years, the three-eighth of a cent tax would expire. The eighth-cent tax would be permanent and pay for maintenance of the jail.

Early voting began Tuesday and will be conducted during regular business hours through the office of County Clerk Tina Stowers in the courthouse through Monday.

Polls will be open on Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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