County looks to bolster law enforcement
1/2-cent sales tax proposed, property purchased for new jail
The Barry County Commission has made a couple of moves recently in an effort to bolster the county’s law enforcement and jail.
Official language has yet to be submitted, but the Commission is planning to propose a 1/2-cent law enforcement sales tax in April 2022. Separately, the Commission has also purchased a 25.42-acre tract of land on which it plans to build a new county jail.
Gary Youngblood, presiding commissioner, said the sales tax proposal is designed to support the sheriff’s office and jail, especially with salaries.
“This is so we have enough money to pay our employees at the jail and sheriff’s office,” he said. “We ought to be paying our people as well as other area cities and counties pay. Most counties have a law enforcement sales tax, but we have been living off our general sales tax.”
Since Sheriff Danny Boyd took office following the November 2020 election, the office has never been fully staffed.
“We’ve always been at least one or two down, but right now we are six down in the office and three or four down in the jail,” he said. “I am happy with the proposal because hopefully it will make our pay comparable to other municipalities and counties.”
Boyd said the county’s starting deputy pay is $31,200. Cassville starts its officers at $33,500, and Monett starts at $36,941.17.
“We want to be in that range to be comparable,” Boyd said. “We take a lot of calls and cover a lot of ground. This will also help us get better applicants and hopefully retain some good employees instead of just being a training ground. This tax will be enough to get us over that hump.”
Youngblood said as one of the largest counties land-wise, the tax is needed to strengthen coverage.
“We’d like to get this tax passed because we are one of the largest counties with the fewest employees, and this will help with the operations of the department,” he said.
In 2020, the county’s 1/2-cent general fund sales tax garnered $2,345,952.49. As of October, the county is also about $187,000 ahead of 2020.
The sales tax will be on the ballot in April 2022, just a few months before the Commission also hopes to break ground on a new jail and administrative building, moving the operation out of the center of Cassville.
The Commission has purchased a property, south of Old Exeter Road and west of Highway 37, for $230,000, which Youngblood and Boyd both said was a good deal.
“We had been looking for land in town that had access to the highway and the Judicial Center, and we looked in all directions,” Youngblood said. “All the properties we looked at other than this one were lower acreage, priced higher or did not have sewer and water connections.”
Boyd also said the search ended in the best option, as other properties he saw were similarly priced but for less acreage.
The property was purchased from Adjacent Properties, LLC, an Arkansas-based group that purchased the land in July for $135,000. The county does not expect to close on the sale until July 2022 at the latest, and construction would not start until Fall 2022 at best.
“We feel we had to do something,” Youngblood said. “Our jail now is in the floodplain and has had to be remodeled multiple times. The new building will also be the sheriff’s office and jail.”
Boyd said he knows some aren’t happy with the decision to build on that land, but he is confident it’s the right move.
“It’s a good location for getting on 37, and if we need to go west, we can use the side roads so there’s less traffic,” he said. “It’s a big concern for us going through town with lights and siren. It’s a liability. I know some aren’t happy about us buying that, but it will be great for the county in the long run.”