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More than $18 million in ARPA funds intended for Washington Co jail expansion



WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) โ€” The Washington County Sheriff’s Office could be getting more than $18 million dollars for a jail expansion.

According to Sheriff Tim Helder, the total price tag for the construction is about $19 million dollars. So far, the county has already spent a little more than $1 million on it.

During Tuesday night’s Quorum Court Budget and Finance Committee, Justices of the Peace passed an ordinance allocating more than $8.8 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to be moved to the American Rescue Budget for 2023.

This is the ordinance that passed out of the Committee for Jails/Law Enforcement/Courts Monday night.

The language ordinance for this specific chunk of money talks about the need to expand the jail and use this money for construction costs.

All the JPs on this committee voted to pass this ordinance except for JP Shawndra Washington.

Next, the Budget and Finance Committee heard an ordinance appropriating $10 million in ARPA funds to also be moved to the American Rescue Budget for 2023.

The language in this ordinance only references the need to move this money between funds, but JP Patrick Deakins said during the meeting that this $10 million is intended to be used for the jail to round out the $19 million total.

Once again, all the JPs on this committee voted to pass this ordinance except for JP Shawndra Washington.

JP Suki Highers attended this committee meeting as an audience member. She said she plans to vote against both ordinances when they go before the full Quorum Court.

“Until we’re willing to take some of the suggestions in the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and until we take some of those seriously and actually try to implement some kind of measures to reduce overpopulation to the jail, I am not interested in expanding,” she said.

Jail leaders said this expansion is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 by creating more space to spread out and quarantine, adding about 230 beds and creating more warehouse space to store COVID-mitigating supplies.

These ordinances will go before the full Quorum Court at its December 15th meeting.



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