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County wants to keep 3/4 cent jail tax

By John Miller, 05/15/24 10:33 AM

PRESCOTT – When the Nevada County Jail was built citizens overwhelmingly approved a one-cent sales tax.

The way it was presented, 3/4 of a cent would be used to pay off the bonds and contained a sunset clause. This meant the tax would be removed once the jail was paid for. The jail will be paid off in April 2025. The other 1/4 cent tax was a permanent tax to fund the maintenance and operation of the jail.

However, in the May meeting of the Nevada County Quorum Court, Nevada County Judge Mike Otwell proposed trying to keep the 3/4 cent tax with the money to be put in county general. He said it won’t affect the tax situation as people have been paying the sales tax for years. The court agreed and approved Otwell going to the law firm of Friday, Eldridge and Clark to get the paperwork started so this issue can be placed on the November General Election ballot.

This means the public will be voting on whether or not to keep the 3/4 cent sales tax after being promised it would be removed once the jail was paid off. Justice of the Peace Herbert Coleman said with the county’s financial situation, he can’t see how the county couldn’t do this.

In other business, the court voted to pay Riggs Tractor Co.$180,000 for the grader that burned. The agreement was reached when a committee from the court met with representatives of Riggs last month. Riggs was initially asking for $242,000 but the two sides negotiated and agreed on a five year deal for $180,000 with no interest. During the negotiations, Riggs representatives claimed the warranty wasn’t in effect because the cause of the fire wasn’t mechanical. At the time, the grader wasn’t insured. This is because it was bought when the county was transitioning between insurance providers and wasn’t included on the list of equipment provided to the Arkansas Association of Counties.

Ben Hale, eighth judicial district prosecuting attorney, said this was a hard decision to make. He pointed out the court had two options, go with the negotiated deal or file suit. He pointed out there was no guarantee the county would win a lawsuit because the judge would be informed the grader wasn’t insured at the time. He told the court an ordinance needs to be drawn up and approved agreeing on the negotiated price and clearing the county from any other liability to Riggs.

Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce presented the court with her monthly report and a list of upcoming events. Those events include: an Extension Homemakers coffee Thursday at the library; the Prescott Police Officers ball at the Barn at Willow Oaks Acres Friday night; Spring fest sponsored by the First Baptist Church and Prescott-Nevada County Health Alliance Saturday at the fairgrounds; Southern Pines coffee and cookout on May 24; and a ribbon cutting for Gigi Bridal and Formal on May 28 at 10 a.m.

Stacey Stone, county agent, said the livestock team finished third in state and will be going to Kansas City in October.

The court approved using ARPA funda to purchase new air conditioning units for the Nevada County Health Unit, and a resolution on the spending of ARPA money for new county equipment.

The meeting concluded with County Treasurer Ricky Reyenga informing the court the Collector and Treasurer offices can’t be combined as planned by a vote of the people in November. He said his research showed this would have had to be proposed before the primary to be put on the November ballot. However, he continued, it can be done legislatively and area representatives have been contacted, and agreed, to help get this done.