CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) – Voters will decide if Sharp County gets a new hospital in just 41 days.
The county will hold a special election for a1.5-percent sales tax that would fund construction and operations of a new hospitalif it's approved.
Supporters have pushed this issue so that the county could attractindustry and create more health care options closer to home. However, noteveryone is convinced.
An organized opposition group has formed, of course callingfor no new taxes. In addition to that, though, the group wonders if a new hospitalis a worthwhile investment given that there's another health care project thatwould cost nothing to taxpayers.
Mike Clark, a Cave City resident, helped start the groupcalled Sharp County Citizens for Responsible Government, which is now trying toconvince people not to vote for the proposed hospital sales tax.
"I'm definitely not a Tea Party person," Clark said, "but myfather raised me to live within a budget, and I'm saying it's out of our budgetcounty-wise to pass a 1.5-percent sales tax."
Clark is against the proposed sales tax that, if approved,would let Sharp County build and then run a new hospital. The Sharp CountyHospital Foundation, a group supporting the project, said that if the sales tax passes,the hospital would be approximately 40,000 square feet in size and costsomewhere around $12 million to build.
In November, when Region 8 News first reported that theSharp County quorum court agreed to hold a special election for the sales tax,many residents said they not only wanted a new hospital but would not mindpaying higher taxes to get one. Clark said more support for the project existsin the northern part of the county, but not in his neck of the woods.
"We feel like not only Sharp County but especially southernSharp County – if the tax were to pass – would not be served under this," hesaid. "In southern Sharp County, I've yet to talk with a single soul that hasbeen for the hospital or for the tax."
Clark said he and his group oppose the project for a numberof reasons, including what he said is a lack of transparency.He said he is also concerned that building and running a hospital would be toomuch of a risk for the county financially.
"That's the last thing that we need to do is to pass a1.5-percent sales tax and be stuck with it forever, and then the hospital fail,"he said.
He also wonders why the county would pursue a new hospitalwhen he claims there is another alternative in the works that would cost taxpayersnothing. White River Medical Center announced that it plans to turn its urgentcare clinic in Cherokee Village into a 24-hour emergency room this spring.
Some may accuse Clark and his group of being a mouthpiecefor the medical center since its project would compete with the proposedhospital. Clark, however, said that his group hasno ties to the medical center, adding that he just wants to keep taxes low andspending to a minimum.
"Please get out and vote," he urged. "That's the only waythat the people are going to be heard is with their vote."
Sharp County will hold a special election on the hospitalsales tax on March 11.
If anyone is curious to see how much of their money goes tocity, county and state sales tax, click here.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration alsohas a list of the city and county sales and use taxes throughout the state.That information can be found here.