BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KFSM) — Benton County hosted its first town hall meeting tonight (Feb. 5) to address a proposal for a new courthouse in downtown Bentonville.
Tonight was the first of ten town hall meetings throughout the county ahead of the countywide election on March 12.
Some people are frustrated about the new courthouse facility, but some stand behind the proposal.
“My frustration with this proposal is it’s just too expensive. It’s too big of a building, it’s more than we can use. It’s designed more to be an impact piece or a monument downtown instead of just being a practical building,” said Michael Kalagias, a Benton County resident.
Benton County judge Barry Moehring says this new courthouse is a necessary modernization.
“Our current court facilities are outdated they are scattered in downtime Bentonville, so there is security issues,” said Moehring. “We don’t have a lot of parking, we don’t have desperation of detainees inmates from the public and from the judiciary. So what we need is a modern and contemporary court facilities, and that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”
Some people at the meeting voiced their opinions about the location and funding being a problem.
“I mean this is the tax that is going to cover groceries, your heating bill. God forbid you have a home repair and you need to replace a central heat or air. All of those things you need to buy all the things you buy every day you will have to pay more for just so we can get a fancier courthouse,” said Kalagias.
The new courthouse would go in downtown Bentonville just off the square next to the current Benton County Courthouse.
The funding for the facility would have the voters pay a one-eighth cent sales tax.
“One eighth of a cent is 12.5 cents per one hundred dollars of spending, and to put that in perspective, the state sales tax is at 6.5 percent, so that would be $6.50 on $100,” Moehring explained. “This is 12.5 cents, so it’s as minimal of tax as we can go. It’s for 4 1/2 years. There’s a hard sunset — it ends then, and by then the building will be built and paid for,” said Moehring.
The Walton Family Foundation has given over a million dollar grant if the facility is built on the Bentonville Square. Moehring says it was not the deciding factor for the location of the facility but says it certainly helps.
“The ability to reduce the cost of taxpayers by virtue of going this route well we had to pay attention to that and take that into consideration,” said Moehring.
The whole project is set to cost about $35 million, most of it being paid from the one-eighth cent sales tax.