Sharp Co. residents react to special election results

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Sharp County residents voted down a 1.5-percent sales tax Tuesday that would fund a new, county-owned hospital.

According to the County Clerk's Office, more than 3,400 residents voted "no" for a permanent one-percent sales tax increase and a temporary half-percent increase.

Most residents want a hospital, but many people were split about whether a sales tax increase should fund it.

"I voted against the sales tax," Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts said.

Sheriff Counts is for a hospital if the county does not have to pay for it.

"My parents are getting up in years and having a hospital would be great," Counts said. "I'd be for it, 100 percent. I just don't think the county should get in the hospital business. Yesterday, the citizens of Sharp County agreed with that."

However, Highland Police Chief Jeremy Stevens was not one of these citizens.

"A lot of people were misinformed," Stevens said. "I think they should have voted better than they did, but it is what it is."

Chief Stevens said he sees the need of a hospital first-hand.

"We have a lot of accidents in this area where people can't get the help that they need," Stevens said. "This would have provided something to stabilize them better to get them to a more stable facility."

Sheriff Counts argues White River Medical Center's plans for a new emergency room would do just that.

"Somebody involved in an accident or some type of trauma, they can stop there, get them treated, get them stabilized before they send them off to the hospital," Counts said.

Both the new emergency room and a new hospital would have to transfer patients in serious condition to larger hospitals in Batesville, Mountain Home or Jonesboro.

"I'm sure if you'd ask anyone around, they'd all be in agreement we should have a hospital," Counts said. "If an individual or group wanted to put one in, that would be great."

Sheriff Counts hopes White River will take care of that.

"Hopefully with the ER put in, they get plenty of business up there and eventually put in a hospital," Counts said.

However, Chief Stevens has not given up on a county-owned hospital.

"Hopefully they'll do better research, get better numbers out to people and maybe persuade the votes to go a different way next time," Stevens said. "Try again until we get one."

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