Jackson Co. plans next steps after voters approve jail sales tax - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Jackson Co. plans next steps after voters approve jail sales taxes

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JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Jackson County officials breathed a collective sigh of relief a day after voters overwhelmingly approved two sales tax increases for a new jail.

The county can now prepare to move forward with construction, as voters have spared the county from having its jail closed.

"I can't tell you how appreciative I am," said Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas. "I slept like a baby [Tuesday night], first time in many months."

Relieved is an understatement for Sheriff Lucas right now, as the eight-year struggle he has faced with the Jackson County Detention Center appears to be over.

Voters supported two sales taxes by big margins during a special election Tuesday.

"I was really anticipating it being close," Lucas said. "I never would have expected a 70-30 split like it turned out. I was very surprised, and I was very pleased."

The favorable results have taken away most of the dread he felt about the upcoming jail inspection.

"What I'm anticipating is the jail review committee giving us time," the sheriff said. "I don't think they'll shut us down."

The county can then meet with its architect and project manager to clear the way for the new larger jail, which will cost approximately $8.8 million to build.

"Step one is done," said Jeff Phillips, the Jackson County judge. "Now, it's into getting everything ready, getting everything set up for construction."

Phillips still has to put out bids for construction and secure the bonds, but he hopes to break ground on the project in about six months.

"We are humbly thankful," Phillips said, "and we are very encouraged that Jackson County wants to move forward and that they have basically saved the county."

The two sales taxes will likely start generating revenue for the county in August. One sales tax, worth 0.375 percent, will remain on the books permanently to maintain the new 100-bed facility, while the other tax will drop off once the jail is built.

"We're going to do everything we can to get the jail paid for as soon as possible," Phillips said.

He expects the new jail to take about two years to construct.

What happens to the current facility is up to the quorum court, though it appears the members will decide to demolish it to make room for extra parking.

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