Blytheville Police Department waiting to renovate old Armory

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Voters in Blytheville will decide the fate of a half-cent sales tax increase which would help fund first responders and possibly help the police department move into a new building.

Tuesday, the Blytheville City Council approved the half-cent sales tax proposal for a public vote.

The money would be used to help increase the pay of first responders, and allow the city to issue bonds to move the police department into the old National Guard Armory building.

However, if approved, the sales tax would sunset after ten years, but could bring in roughly $1.4 million dollars per year.

According to Chief Ross Thompson, this sales tax initiative will be very beneficial for the police department.

"There are several projects that we may be looking at for public safety," he said. "Some camera systems and things like that, salaries, desperately need salaries, for the firemen and the police officers by trying to bring those in line with some state averages. "

Thompson also said that the sales tax will be very beneficial in helping to renovate the National Guard Armory.

"Part of that money will be used to convert it into a justice complex," he said. "Also, a police department, and a district court."

Thompson said the Blytheville Police Department has never had a building of their own. He said right now, they are using Blytheville City Hall, but it doesn't meet the needs of the community.

"It's long-term deterioration," he said. "Nothing that happened overnight. A lot of it was because the funds weren't there to meet the infrastructure needs."

Thompson said the old armory will give them an opportunity to have a better work environment, and a bigger space. He says the building has been empty for two years, but the city took possession of it in Oct. 2015.

"We've used it on occasion for some specialty operations, or forensic investigations," he said. "But, we haven't been able to fix it up to use it as a police station."

Thompson said all they need to move forward is for the half-cent sales tax to pass.

He said the amount of funding will determine the number of upgrades that they can put into the building.

"I don't think just any building could do as the police department," he said. "I think this one does because of the nature that it was previously built for and used for. It fits our mission as well as what their mission was. So, I think with some modifications, it could be a little bit more civilian friendly or citizen friendly."

The vote on the proposed half-cent sales tax is set for Tuesday, May 9th.

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