Batesville Fire Dept. eyes benefits from one-cent sales tax vote

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Voters headed to the polls Tuesday in Batesville. Residents there are voting early to raise the sales tax by a penny.

The Batesville Fire Chief is keeping a very close watch on the results. If the measure is approved, Brent Gleghorn says his department would receive some money from a half-cent hike. He claims it would allow his department to better protect the community and even save money for residents despite the public's outcries about over-taxation.

"I visited with all the firemen here and they're completely in support of this program," Gleghorn said, "and we really, really would appreciate that anybody gets out and votes."

Gleghorn watched Wednesday, as his department's 16-year-old fire engine pulled into the station. Regulations state the truck is outdated. Tight budgets, however, have given the fire chief little hope of replacing it unless residents approve a half-cent sales tax hike.

"The big thing I see is just getting the citizens some better, more dependable fire equipment and some more man power," Gleghorn noted. "We really, really need to add some man power."

The chief voted for the half-cent sales tax increase that his department would split with Parks & Recreation, police and street repairs.

"The big benefit as well as the fire department having funds to develop other programs and be more in the 21st century would be that better streets don't beat up our trucks so bad," Gleghorn said.

The chief says the money would allow his department to buy two new trucks and hire two new full-time employees. He also claims the improved equipment and added man power could help the city's ISO rating, which would bring down insurance payments for the department and residents.

"If (visitors) go to one of our restaurants or stay in one of our motels, they will help pay a little bit of the cost that it takes to protect them and provide for them while they're in our city," the chief added.

Gleghorn says he's voting "yes for progress" alongside residents like Zabine Dishongh.

"I'll give up Diet Cokes and part of McDonald's, not all of McDonald's," the longtime Batesville resident said, laughing.

Dishongh says the increase would not affect her wallet much, and she is also supporting the additional half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot. That would allow the city to pay for a $25 million project in Fitzhugh Park, a similar effort that failed in 2010.

"If it doesn't pass this time, I'll vote for it whenever it comes up again too," Dishongh said, "if I'm alive."

Poll workers say more than 300 people have voted early so far. Early voting will be held through Monday at the Old Independence Regional Museum, located at 380 South 9th Street in Batesville.

The special election will officially be held Tuesday, March 13.

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