- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

VAN BUREN, Ark. (AP) - Leaders in Crawford County are considering several plans for a tax increase to pay for a new jail after the current detention center was placed on probation for failing state inspections.

A state inspection last year identified multiple problems with the existing facility, including overcrowding, understaffing and inadequate facilities. Last week, a committee from the Crawford County Quorum Court agreed to a proposed sales tax to fund a new $20 million jail.

The Southwest Times Record reported Monday (http://bit.ly/1mv9QoL ) that justices of the peace are considering three options for the tax increase: a 1 percent tax over five years, a 0.5 percent tax over 10 years or a ¼-percent tax over 20 years.

Voters have rejected tax increases for the jail three times previously, but officials say it is necessary.

“I am wholeheartedly in support of a new jail, but I don’t know if we can get the county voters on board for passing it in an election,” justice of the peace Carrie Jernigan said. “We have to figure out how to bring this to the voters in the correct way and assure them that we can keep our streets safe.”

Jernigan said residents she’s spoken with prefer the lower tax.

“Voters are leery of all of these taxes, so a quarter-percent would be more reassuring to voters, and you’d just have to hope that it’s enough,” she said.

The current facility opened in 1989 as a 64-bed facility and was expanded to 88 beds in 2009. County officials said a new facility could accommodate up to 260 inmates, meeting state requirements.

County Judge John Hall said the process to build the new jail would take about two years, if voters approve the tax increase.

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Information from: Southwest Times Record, http://www.swtimes.com/

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