- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - A judge has issued an injunction that stops next month’s special election in Mississippi County in which voters would have been asked to approve funding for a new, $22.5 million courthouse in Blytheville.

On Tuesday, Retired Circuit Judge David Laser sided with the city of Osceola, which filed suit earlier this month to stop the planned Aug. 9 election. Laser, who was appointed to hear the case, said the election should not go forward, primarily because the proposed tax would be imposed on residents of Osceola’s judicial district, who technically would not benefit from the new Blytheville courthouse.

Mississippi County has dual county seats and Osceola has its own courthouse.

“Blytheville and Osceola are both places of justice for Mississippi County and you deal with them legally as separate and distinct counties,” Laser said. “I think that this project failed when an ordinance strictly limited to producing money for both sides of the county was amended to a distinct purpose that is in one seat of justice and not both.”

The county argued that the proposed tax increase is lawful, and County Judge Randy Carney says Laser’s decision will be appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“(Laser) did not address the legal issues,” Carney said afterward. “He upheld his own personal beliefs. He hurt the citizens of Osceola, though. He did the city an injustice.”

But attorney Bart Calhoun, representing Osceola, argued in court that the proposed tax is illegal because Osceola district taxpayers wouldn’t benefit from the new Blytheville courthouse, which is in the Chickasawba district.

“This tax will take money from the Osceola district and use it exclusively in the Chickasawba district,” he said. “People from Osceola can’t even use the services here in Blytheville because of those districts.”

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