Going to court in Benton County
Benton County voters, 6,055, who went to the polls March 12 should be ashamed for the incomprehensible blow they dealt the residents of this county and those who serve in our county courts system -- their vote defeated the smallest sales tax that could be levied (1/8th cent--12.5 cents on $100), to fund a critically needed circuit courts building in downtown Bentonville.
Voter turnout was 6 percent; leaving 152,033 registered voters who couldn't be bothered; or perhaps along with thousands more, live in a cocoon of ignorant indifference--until they need some sort of assistance.
What might you experience "going to court" in Benton County? Due to years of neglect and inaction the courts are scattered in four locations around downtown Bentonville; so you must first determine where you need to go. For a criminal proceeding it would be the old courthouse--built when there was one circuit judge, 91 years ago, now far below today's construction codes, with a high risk security level.
You drive around downtown streets searching for a parking place -- there probably won't be a promised 400-space, free parking garage, since it was dependent on the county building a new courts facility. You finally locate a spot three blocks from the courthouse, thankful for your umbrella since it's raining. Approaching the courthouse, you see a line of people standing outside in the rain--there's no space inside for everyone as they process through security.
You finally locate a small, crowded courtroom. You're testifying for the prosecution in a criminal case, and notice the accused, brought from the jail, is seated little more than an arm's length from the witness stand. Wouldn't everyone feel more secure if those in custody were separated behind a glassed-in partition?
The outstanding new building plans included generous space for current needs and future expansion, with state-of-the-art security. We now have an additional judge coming in with no available space for another courtroom.
Judge Moehring tirelessly traveled this county, four visits to Siloam Springs, trying to make voters aware of the need for a new courts building. Over 54 months that tiny tax wouldn't burden anyone, while raising the additional $25 million needed.
Benton County citizens are fortunate to live in the premier county in the State of Arkansas -- sadly, on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, a large majority of those citizens failed miserably to live up to that standard.
Siloam SpringsEditorial on 03/27/2019
Print Headline: Letter to the Editor