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Washington County Jail expansion makes way onto ballot

The Quorum Court meeting at the Washington county courthouse came to a decision about if they’re moving forward with the $60 million dollar jail expansion proposal.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — Emotions ran high during Thursday night’s Washington County Quorum Court meeting as the court decided whether to add a jail expansion proposal to the November ballot.   

“When I look at the ordinance to expand the jail and the juvenile court …I don’t see the spirit of God,” said Reverend Angela Tyler Williams.

According to Sheriff Tim Helder, overcrowding has been an ongoing issue for Washington County jails for the past eight years. Helder fears that the problem will get worse as the area continues to grow.  

“Now we’re ramping up with overcrowding with an average of 125 to130 detainees sleeping on the floor literally,” said Helder.

The proposed has taxpayers covering the cost of a thousand more beds at the detention facility, using a quarter-cent sales tax.   

“We are about to ask the taxpayers to pay $143 million that will take more than a decade to pay off,” said Eva Madison.  

Justice of the Peace Evelyn Rios-Stafford argued there are cheaper and more effective alternatives to solve jail overcrowding. 

“The county paid for a criminal justice study that came out two years ago that looked at a lot of less expensive ways to solve overcrowding at the jail,” said Rios-Stafford. 

“I personally paid for a copy for each of you in case you misplaced your copy,” said a Fayetteville resident.  

With the Washington County Quorum Court’s vote to adopt the ordinance, and put the item on the November ballot, it’s now up to the public to decide if they want to expand the jail or not.   

“I am in favor of allowing the people to vote for this. Let them decide if they see the need,” said Washington County Citizen.    

The Quorum Court is now advising the community to do its research and to cast their votes in November.  

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