With 2016 winding down the staff of the Booneville Democrat reviewed the news of the year and selected what we believe to be the five biggest stories of the year starting with the easy passage of two half cent sales taxes to construct and maintain and equip a new Logan County Detention Center in Paris.
1. New jail. The July 12 vote for a new 100-bed jail was lopsided — 71 percent favor. Pre-vote meetings about the issue were mostly sparsely attended and overwhelmingly in support.
There was opposition in at least signage, but only in Booneville, where it was noted the tax percentage would climb to 10.5 percent. The tax also pushes the rate in Paris into double digits at 10 percent.
The ballot allows issuance of $13 million to construct the jail but so far only $10 million in bonds have been sold in an Oct. 17 transaction. Logan County Judge Ray Gack has said the remaining $3 million would be held “in reserve.”
The tax to back the bonds will start being collected on Jan. 1 but county officials were able to start tapping into the funds on Nov. 29.
Gack has said construction is expected to begin in March or April and will take at least a year to complete.
2. Election 2016. While the result on the national issues was predictable, almost two in three registered Logan County voters — there were 84 newly registered voters in the final days to do so — cast a ballot in the Nov. 8 General Election.
County voters mirrored the state voters in hot button issues like medical marijuana. More locally, although one councilman retained his season, Booneville voters ousted two incumbent aldermen. One incumbent in Blue Mountain was also unseated.
3. BHDC. The Booneville Human Development Center was the target of more reports this year, including one claiming the center overuses restraints and another that a death at the center was the result of negligence.
Department of Human Services, which operates the HDCs in the state, announced reforms for restraint use in March.
In September another review of HDC’s found turnover rate an issue with all five centers but at 34.2 percent Booneville’s rate was the lowest among the centers.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman also visited the center for the first time in October.
4. Downtown Improvement Committee. The Booneville Industrial Development Corporation’s Downtown Improvement Committee approached the city council about an ordinance to hold business owners accountable for the property appearance, much the same as which private residents are held.
The committee landed a $16,750 grant for planters, benches and a mural on the side of a building on Broadway that was painted by Tony Hamby.
Hamby also created a giant mural on the side of a building in Magazine earlier in the year.
5. Police units. While the purchase approval occurred in 2015, the Booneville Police Department put five new units into service early in the year.
Later, the council also approved the purchase of another vehicle, a truck for chief Al Brown.
The BPD receives 22 percent of the revenue from a one percent sales tax and uses those funds to make monthly payments on the vehicles.