Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Prison Plans Nearing Finalization

Information continues to be hard to come by, but sources have informed salineriverchronicle.com that work continues on the plan to construct a state prison, with beds for Bradley and Drew Counties, either near Wilmar or in the Warren Industrial Park.  The potential sites cannot be verified at this time, but information has been provided that one of the areas is likely to be the location.

It is reported that the State of Arkansas has all but finalized a contract with a private company out of Louisiana to build the prison.  It will be privately owned and operated with the state paying for the facility to house state inmates and Bradley and Drew Counties individually contracting with the company to house county prisoners at a fee of so much per day per bed.  There remains a number of unknown details.

While investigating the most likely location for the prison, it appears the Warren site might be the most workable and affordable, although it is not certain who will make the decision as to the location.  The potential site in Drew County is private land that must be purchased ( we assume ) and there may be sewer issues.  The Bradley County site is likely to be donated to the company by the Bradley County Economic Development Corporation, according to public comments that have been made.  The Warren site has sufficient water and sewer.

Recently, both Bradley County Judge Klay McKinney and Drew County Judge Robert Akin have stated that regardless of which county the prison is located in, the two counties will share the property taxes paid by the private firm 50%-50%.  This would mean that all property taxes collected for the school district, city government, county government, library, hospital or any other entity that levies a millage within the jurisdiction the prison is located in, will be cut in half and 50% paid to the other county.  When questioned about the legality or constitutionality of such action, it was stated that they think it can be done and plan to do so unless prohibited by law. 

In Bradley County, the single largest recipient of millage revenues would be the Warren and Hermitage Schools Districts.  If the prison is constructed in the Warren Industrial Park, the Warren District would be the one affected.

There may be information we do not have access to.  If the private facility is paid for with tax exempt financing, there may be no property taxes levied on the prison.  If so a payment in lieu of taxes could be negotiated, but the same issue would be in play regarding the sharing of the revenue.  In past public comments, it has always been reported that the private firm has it's own financing and the facility would go on the tax books of the jurisdiction within which it is constructed.

It is reported by both County Judges that the contracts between the company and the two individual counties is close to being finalized, with the matter of cost of living increases for bed space still being discussed.  It has been reported several times during the past couple of months that the decision about the location is just days away.

It appears the idea of a regional jail commission has been rejected.  There have been comments made that the contracts will be for 20 years, but each county quorum court must appropriate funding annually to pay the count'y's charges.  It has also been reported that each county will pay for a specific number of beds rather they use them or not.

More information will be provided as it is ascertained.  

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