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— Members of the Benton County Long Range Planning Committee for Real Estate voted to move forward on a building plan Thursday.

The plan calls for the county to purchase a building at 2151 S.W. Runway Drive in Bentonville for $1.2 million to house the juvenile probation offices and juvenile court system. Under the plan, county officials will also purchase a lot adjacent to the building for $150,000 to build a hardened juvenile detention center for an additional $2.57 million with a contingency cost of $515,000.

Remodeling the building to house the juvenile court system will cost an estimated $330,000. The space behind the county courthouse that now houses the Juvenile Detention Center will also be remodeled and used as storage space and as a detention area for inmates awaiting trial.

The move will allow county officials to make use of a sally port on the courthouse to bring prisoners in and out of the jail. The remodel also includes plans to expand Circuit Judge Jay Finch’s courtroom, allowing the county to place Circuit Court Judge Doug Schrantz in that space once Finch’s courtroom is moved to the new facility.

The cost to remodel the current detention center is $150,000, bringing the plan’s total to $4.9 million.

The plan passed by the Long Range Planning Committee eliminates the need to move the county’s Health Department into the Center for Nonprofits in Rogers.

County Judge Dave Bisbee made his stanceon the possible move for the Health Department at the beginning of the meeting.

“Whatever recommendation you come out of here with, I will support and lead the charge against the full Quorum Court,” Bisbee said. However, “if you choose not to move the Health Department, to the (Center for) Nonprofits, then I can tell you that during my tenure as judge we are not going to move the Health Department.”

Justice of the Peace Kurt Moore assured members the county has the money to pay for the building plan.

After subtracting the $3.5 million the county keeps in its operating fund and the $4 million required by the state to keep in reserve, there will be $11 million available to pay for the buildings in 2010, Moore said.

“If you do not want to go into debt, there is no real reason to do so,” Moore said.

Bobby Hubbard voiced his support of purchasing property rather than leasing space from the Center for Nonprofits because the purchase would give the county something tangible.

“To me, (the property on Runway Drive) is just a better fit for Benton County,” Hubbard said.

“For the last several years, we have been talking about buildings and expanding and the Health Department has never been one of the departments we have talked about,” Hubbard said. “I just do not like the lease idea.”

“The ball is in your court now,” Frank Winscott told Moore, chairman of the Finance Committee after the measure passed the Long Range Planning Committee.

News, Pages 18 on 11/18/2009

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