Friday, January 30, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XVI): Keeping the jail open?

The big criminal justice story in the past few issues of the Newton County Times is once again the county jail. The headline in the Jan. 8, 2009 issue is "Plea being made not to close jail," and the story recounts the situation with the more-than-a-century-old county jail, which the state Jail Standards committee is seeking to close in March.

In November, county residents approved a 1/2 cent sales tax to finance construction of a new jail, but voters did not approve a second 1/2 cent sales tax to maintain the facility. The county is considering a second vote on this latter tax, but officials including the county's attorney, appear not to be moving quickly to get the matter on the ballot. Also, while the county's attorney has indicated that he plans to seek "leniency by state officials" to keep the jail open, he had not yet contacted them in early January. The story notes that this will be a difficult time to sell construction bonds.

In other stories:
  • County officials were sworn in, including a new county judge who ran as an independent. All others are Republicans.
  • The Jasper Volunteer Fire Department has received a $3K grant from the Arkansas Rural Fire Protection Program, but it is short on firefighters and is recruiting so that it can improve its ISO rating and lower the fire insurance premiums of residents. This seems particularly timely since the paper has reported three residential fires in recent weeks.
  • A Dollar General store will open in Jasper, with 9100 square feet.
  • Two county schools are receiving USDA grants to provide fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to students.
  • The University of Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service is offering a 12-week StrongWomen Program for middle aged and older women two mornings a week at the Carroll Electric community room. The fee is $12. (Too bad this is being offered at a time when so many women are at work).

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