YELLVILLE, Ark. – Marion County voters bought a new jail, and more time with the state, Tuesday night.
Residents passed a half-cent sales tax to build a $7.6-million, 62-bed facility –nearly three times the size of the county’s current jail.
“It means so much for Marion County,” says Marion County Judge, Terry Ott, “because our jail was going to be closed May first [and turned into] a 24-hour facility.”
Ott says the state was threatening to turn the county’s 40-year-old jail into a 24-hour holding facility because it didn’t meet state regulations.
The new designation would have forced the county to start transferring inmates to jails in neighboring counties.
“That would take probably $700,000 to a million dollars a year,” he says, “that you’re giving to someone else –money that you don’t have in the first place.”
The passing of the tax is just the latest chapter in what has been a long election season for both resident and county leaders.
Marion County first went to voters in March to ask for a new jail. The county was seeking two sales taxes: a ¾ cent sales tax to build a 100-bed jail and a ¼ cent sales tax to operate it.
The operation tax was passed by voters but the tax to construct the new jail failed.
The county’s decision to scale back the construction tax and the size of the new jail was enough to sway voters the second time around.
“We’re going to be allowed to operate in the current facility [as a jail] until our new jail is completed,” says Ott, “because we are building one.”
Ott says the new jail is expected to be operational in about two years.