Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part VIII): Selling a jail

The only story about crime or law enforcement on the front page of the Oct. 16, 2008 edition of the Newton County Times announced an open house at the Newton County (AR) Jail. Here's the story's lede:
An open house at the Newton County Jail will be held from 1-4 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct., 21, 22 and 23, and a town meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 to inform the voting public on the need for a new county jail.
As I have explained in earlier posts here and here, the current jail was built in 1903, and state regulators are threatening to close it in 2009 because it does not meet state standards. (See photos of the jail here). A 1/2 cent sales tax to finance construction of a new jail is on the Nov. 4 ballot; a further 1/2 cent sales tax increase would pay for the facility's ongoing operation and maintenance. Much as the problems associated with the old jail have been in the local news in recent months -- even years -- the open house seems like a good idea for fostering voter buy-in for a costly, albeit necessary, project.

In other front-page headlines:
  • "Yard sale proceeds help fund scholarships" tells of a "city-wide" yard sale to raise funds for the county's Single Parent Scholarship (SPS) Fund. Of interest to those who, like me, think about how rural communities solver their problems and improve the lots of their citizens is the fact that the proceeds are matched dollar-for-dollar by funds from a state program. The story reports that, since its inception (no date specified), the single-parent SPS fund has granted 234 scholarships worth more than $95K to 82 people. Thirty of those have completed degrees.
  • "Fall color is the theme of 47th tour" promotes the area's annual fall foliage tour. School buses will travel a scenic route; the cost is $6/person. This event is sponsored by the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, the County Extension Service, the County Beautification Committee, the Jasper School District, and the U.S. Forest Service-Big Piney Ranger District.
  • "Angel Works Thrift Store part of downtown scene" is a feature story about this non-profit program that employs developmentally disabled adults.

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