Rogers voters approve 1-cent sales tax extension; Siloam Springs selects top two Ward 1 candidates

by Jeff Della Rosa ( 449 views 

Rogers voters approved a $240 million bond issue, a 1-cent sales tax extension and to pay off nearly $60 million in existing bonds, with more than 70% of the vote, according to unofficial election results. On Tuesday (Aug. 14), Rogers hosted a special election to determine the outcome of the bond and sales tax measures, while Siloam Springs voters narrowed down the candidates running for a city board seat.

Rogers voters needed to approve to refund the 2011 bond issue in order for the other bond issues to be approved. The ballot included five bond issues, and the following is how voters voted:
• Refunding bonds, 1,015 (74%) to 357 (26%)
• Street bonds, 1,046 (75.1%) to 346 (24.9%)
• Park bonds, 1,002 (71.9%) to 301 (28.1%)
• Fire bonds, 1,064 (76.4%) to 329 (23.6%)
• Police bonds, 1,062 (76.2%) to 331 (23.8%)

Sales tax revenue will be used to pay off the bonds. The city’s existing sales tax rate is 9.5%, including 6.5% state, 1% county and 2% city taxes.

Nearly 75%, or $178 million, of the money to be raised in the 2018 bond issue will go toward improving city streets. The second largest portion of the funding will be used to refinance the remaining $59.5 million balance from the 2011 bond issue. The remainder of the funds will be allocated to city parks ($41 million), police department ($11.5 million) and fire department ($9.5 million).

“This process has always been about the future of our city, and citizen input has always determined what projects to invest in,” Rogers Mayor Greg Hines said. “We are the downtown of Northwest Arkansas because of the investments we’ve made in our infrastructure, parks and public safety. We’re excited the voters renewed their trust in our bond program, and we look forward to delivering on our promises.”

Raymond Burns, president and CEO of the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, was glad voters approved the bond issue and was not surprised by the outcome.

“Overall the voters are very satisfied with the way things are going in the community,” Burns said. “We need roads and to continue to make these improvements. Parks are important to quality of life. Public safety is something that no one questions.”

With the street bond money, the city plans to establish a street grid on the west side of Rogers and improve connectivity to isolated areas. Some of the planned road work includes the Walnut Street interchange and improvements; J.B. Hunt Drive, phase two; West Magnolia Street overpass; West Oak Street extension, phases one to three; and Pleasant Grove Road west, phase three. Money will also be used for intersection improvements and trails.

One of the planned improvements to parks is the construction of a 70-acre Mt. Hebron Park, which will include pickle ball courts, a splash pad and ice skating rink, and will be the city’s first major park on its west side. Also, two existing parks will be renovated, including the 7.5-acre Frisco Park in downtown and Northwest Park, the city’s oldest sports park.

Funding for the police department will be used to build a 14,000-square-foot Dispatch and Emergency Operations Center that could withstand severe weather, including tornadoes, according to the city’s website. Also, the funding would allow the police department to purchase a new communications system, which provides for statewide operations within its coverage area and offers the ability to coordinate communications with other agencies.

The bond issue also will allow the fire department to build fire station No. 8, along West Pleasant Grove Road, between Rainbow Road and Arkansas Highway 112. And, funding will be used to add a burn building and expand the classroom space at the fire training center.

In Siloam Springs, voters of Ward 1, which encompasses the northwest part of the city, selected David Allen, with 87 votes (33.1%), and Mindy Hunt, with 115 votes (43.7%) as the two candidates who will vie for the Ward 1 seat in the general election Nov. 6, unofficial results show. Fares Trinidad received 61 votes (23.2%).

A primary election for the Ward 1 seat on the Siloam Springs Board of Directors was needed because more than two candidates filed for the position. Ward 1 Director Steve Beers is not running for reelection.