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story.lead_photo.caption Benton County Judge Barry Moehring (top, center) answered a question from a Decatur resident during the Town Hall Meeting in the community room at Decatur City Hall in Decatur Feb. 26. - Photo by Mike Eckels

— Benton County officials faced just a handful of questions Monday at the third in a series of town hall meetings held across the county.

"I'm stumped," County Judge Barry Moehring said after fielding just one question, and that question being one raised at both previous town hall meetings. "This has never happened before."

The county has also staged town hall meetings in Pea Ridge and at the Hickory Creek Fire Department. Between 30 and 40 county residents attended Monday's meeting in the Decatur City Administration Building, which was the city's high school after its construction in 1938 as a Works Progress Administration project, according to Decatur Mayor Bob Tharp.

County Judge Barry Moehring briefed the gathering about the basic structure and responsibilities of county government and then opened the floor to questions.

Mike Clifford of Bentonville repeated a question he has raised before saying he cannot understand how the county "has a revenue problem" when discussing a new courts building. Clifford said that with the growth in population and economic activity in Benton County in recent decades, the county should have ample revenue.

Moehring said again that the county's share of property tax and sales tax revenue is limited and that the incorporation of Bella Vista as a city in 2006 reduced the county's share of tax revenue even more. Moehring said Clifford could find the details of county spending in the county's annual budgets and in the yearly reports done by the state Legislative Audit Division.

After Clifford's question, Moehring was asked a handful of questions about county roads and the county jail.

At the earlier town hall meetings, most questions concerned the county's proposed new courts building. The county is planning to build a new facility to house the circuit court judges and their staffs and related offices. The building site is on North Second Street, north of the historic County Courthouse and east of the old Post Office building that now houses Judge Brad Karren's courts. The county has six circuit judges, with five of them in space in downtown Bentonville. The proposed new 86,000-square-foot building would have four floors, with the fourth being left unfinished under the current plans. The space on the second and third floors would be designed to house six judges and courtrooms. The most recent estimate put the cost of the building at about $30 million.

Clifford said the increase in the cost of the building from $25 million to $30 million shocked him. Moehring said the earlier cost estimates were targets used to guide the choices made in designing the building and the $30 million cost was based on the work of the county's architects and engineers. Moehring told the crowd the Quorum Court is now debating how to pay for the courts building.

Pat Adams, justice of the peace for District 6, said any decision made by the Quorum Court about paying for the courts building will be put to a vote.

General News on 03/07/2018

Print Headline: Benton County judge holds town meeting in Decatur

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