(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 06--Crawford County officials will meet Monday to develop a plan to market a sales tax proposal that would fund a $20 million jail facility.
Justices of the peace in February approved ordinances related to a proposed three-quarters of a percent sales tax to fund a new jail facility that would replace the 88-bed Crawford County Detention Center in Van Buren. Crawford County voters in the May 20 primary election will consider a half-percent of the tax for the purchase of land and construction costs that would sunset in 10 years and also a permanent quarter-percent to cover operation and maintenance.
District 5 Justice of the Peace Cathy Gifford, who called for the special meeting, said it is imperative to determine the message the Quorum Court wants to share with the public and how it will market the issue.
"What we need to do is get our marketing plan together, get our ducks in a row and figure out a way to share the importance of this to the public," Gifford said. "We're trying to develop a grass-roots campaign to help us identify funding to get printed material out, and we need to decide if we want to do direct mail, signs, stickers and so on."
Because the county cannot spend any money marketing the tax, Gifford said individual efforts to promote the tax are underway, such as a citizens group helping to spread the word, but she said she wants to get others involved and develop a more widespread effort.
"The purpose of the meeting will be to see if there would be others that want to get involved and just to discuss ideas," Gifford said. "It's late in the game, but we still have a mission. This is a complicated issue, and there's a lot of information, and we need to keep it simple; it's a work in progress, but we need to get the public behind this."
District 11 Justice of the Peace Carrie Jernigan, who has been vocal in promoting the tax, said she would like to discuss forming a steering committee to help market the tax and assist in setting up town hall meetings with local clubs and fire districts.
The county hired an architectural firm, Collierville, Tenn.-based SouthBuild TEAM in March.
"They said they'd devote $15,000 to marketing the project and that was one of the reasons we hired them, so I want to see what they've done so far and what their plans are to help," Jernigan said.
Officials also determined the location of the proposed facility last month, an 8 1/2 -acre plot of land outside Van Buren city limits on U.S. 64.
Officials agreed to enter the county into a $275,000 contingency contract with the owners of property at 4301 U.S. 64. The contract depends on an environmental test of soil content contingencies, the passage of the sales tax and if the architect deems the site to be feasible.
The meeting will be 5 p.m. Monday in the conference room of Crawford County Farm Bureau, 3430 Kibler Road, in Van Buren.
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