TEXARKANA, Ark. -- The second phase of the Miller County Jail expansion is on hold, officials say, because it would have required an unpopular sales tax increase.
The first phase, which doesn't require a taxpayer buy-in, will go forward as planned.
County officials recently decided to go forward with plans for the building the first phase of the lock-up's expansion plan, that will involve adding 48 to 60 more beds to the existing 285-bed jail, giving the prison up to 345 beds total. However, the second phase which would add an additional 144 beds to the resulting 345, is being dropped, at least for the time being.
During a recent Quorum Court meeting the justices of the peace said there is a lack of enthusiasm on the part of resident voters for the sales tax commitment that the measure would require.
Justice of the Peace John Haltom said residents in his district, appeared to be divided on the issue with about 40% in favor of holding a sales tax election (which had initially been proposed to take place Feb. 8), while 60% are opposed. Such a tax would need to raise at least $7 million for the 144 bed plan, while the first phase expansion (48 to 60 additional beds) will be completely paid for with $3.7 of $4.2 million in federal funds the county received earlier this year through the COVID-19 American Rescue Fund Act.
Miller County Administrative Assistant Carla Jenkins said the lack of voter support will put a hold on any potential sales tax election proposal for the time being.
Meanwhile, Miller County Chief Deputy Mark Lewis said it will likely take about 18 months to finish the first (and apparently only) expansion phase to be had.