Harrison City Council considers special election to fund proposed community center

HARRISON, Ark. - Harrison could possibly have a special election in November. That election would be on sales taxes to fund building a community center and maintaining it.

The conversation started after Mayor Jerry Jackson said he took a trip to Batesville and saw its community center.

"I was just blown away at what I had seen," said Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson. "And I said to myself, 'This is what Harrison needs.' Before the community center opened, their downtown was 80 percent vacant. Today they say it's 100 percent full."

And he wants that to be this town.

"We want to be something for everyone," Luke Feighert, the finance director for the city, said. "Anyone from ages 1 to 101. About four multipurpose courts. This could be anywhere from basketball, to volleyball, and the new sport that's sweeping the nation: pickleball!"

He also said the building could host banquets, concerts, movies, would have a walking track, meeting rooms, a fitness facility, a diving well, and an indoor pool.

The center would be off Gipson Road. But of course, it comes with a cost. Two of them actually.

"A three-quarter cent sales tax to fund the actually building the facilities with the trails and the upgrades," Feighert said.

That tax would be until the bonds were paid back. Harrison city leaders said that would be between 12-15 years.

And then another permanent sales tax.

"Then a quarter cent that would fund operation and maintenance," Feighert said.

Feighert also said the city currently has the lowest sales tax among towns between 9,500 and 20,000 people. The city's sales tax is currently 1.25 percent. State tax is 6.5 percent, and Boone County is 1.25 percent, for a total of 9 percent in sales tax in Harrison. With the additional one percent in sales tax to build and maintain the community center, the total would be at 10 percent.

Some people told us after the meeting they don't want to pay another tax and are concerned by how much the city would owe in bonds.
Others said they would pay the price.

"I would be supportive of the facility," one person said at the meeting.

"I feel like opening up this, I'm excited about Harrison moving forward. Yes it is more money out of my pocket," another Harrison resident said.

The mayor also said the city should strike while the iron is hot.

"We were quoted an interest rate of 2.7 percent," Jackson said. "When you're talking about these dollars, that's huge savings at 2.7. And if we don't do it now, a couple years from now, believe me, that interest rate can go way up, and this thing can never be done."

If the council allows a special election in November, it will be up to voters to decide the fate of the facility, by voting on those two taxes to fund it.

The mayor said Thursday the public can go to the Durand Center here in Harrison at 6 p.m. to learn more about this project.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.