Nelson Discusses Courthouse at Chamber Event
On Monday, Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson spoke at the first 2019 Blytheville Greater Blytheville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Nelson's primary topic while speaking dealt with the special election, which will be held on Feb. 12 after a week of early voting, to help modify and extend the hospital's current half-cent sales tax. While Nelson was not serving as county judge when the decision was made to move forward with this vote, he has stated that he supports it and he intends to vote for it.
Currently, the county has a half-cent sales tax that goes completely to the county hospital and generates around $3 million every year. The tax is scheduled to sunset in 2020. However, the special election could change that. The first issue on the ballot will be to extend and repurpose the tax, extending the tax 30 years and repurposing the tax to be split between the county courthouse projects and the hospital system. Two-thirds will go to the hospital system.
The second issue will allow the county to purchase bonds to fund a complete renovation of the Blytheville Courthouse and minor renovations to the Osceola Courthouse. Since the tax currently generates around $3 million a year and the bond payment annually is expected to be around $1 million, the revenue generated will first go to the county to pay for the bond payment and the remainder of the revenue generated will go to the hospital.
The Blytheville Mississippi County Courthouse is in need of serious repair both internally and externally. Nelson showed several photos and videos of the inside of the courthouse as well as the courthouse's roof. The images reflected major roof damage as well as several leaks and pictures of mold inside the courthouse. Nelson believes that the project is absolutely necessary, however, he did state that the county does have a back-up plan should the tax fail.
Currently, the county is applying for a grant that could facilitate repairs to the roof. If the tax passes and the grant is received then the county will use the grant for roof repair and supplement the tax money elsewhere on the renovation project. Though, if the tax does not pass, the county will still move forward with the roof project if the grant is awarded.
A representative from the hospital stated that if the tax failed then the hospital would likely have to come to voters with their own tax in 2020.
If the tax does pass the Blytheville Courthouse will be nearly totally remodeled and renovated, excluding the marble at the front of the building, which will remain as is. An additional full courtroom will be added to the courthouse and the building will be extended outwards towards Chickasawba Street where the parking lot for the courthouse currently resides.
Nelson stated that the parking lot on the other side of the street would be re-done and the Emergency Squad building will be moved to another location. The new courthouse will also contain a sally port where prisoners will enter the building.
The area will include an elevator that leads only to the third floor as well as holding cells. Nelson did state that the Osceola City Council, the Blytheville City Council and the Mississippi County Quorum Court have all passed resolutions that they support the project.