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Greenbrier voters approve tax bump; funds to go to firefighters, city park

CONWAY -- Greenbrier voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a sales-tax increase intended to finance renovations to the town's Fire Department and construction at a new city park.

The 0.5 percentage-point increase will raise the Faulkner County city's total local sales tax to 2.5 percent and generate an estimated $500,000 in revenue annually.

All but one-eighth of a percentage point of the new tax will end when the accompanying debt is paid. The remaining sum will then go to finance park operations and maintenance.

"No one ever likes asking people to raise taxes, but voters thought that this was important," said City Attorney Dustin Chapman, who awaited election returns at the county clerk's office.

The Fire Department hasn't undergone any major renovations in 40 years, and the park developments "will last for many, many years," he said.

Residents voted on three measures, all of which passed easily, according to complete but unofficial returns.

The first ballot question was on the one-eighth of a percentage point tax for park operation and maintenance:

For 239

Against 129

The second question was for firefighting improvement bonds and the 0.375 percentage point tax:

For 279

Against 90

The third question was for park improvement bonds and the 0.375 percentage point tax, which will not be on top of the one addressed in the second ballot question:

For 236

Against 134

Greenbrier Mayor Sammy Hartwick has said park construction is expected to cost $3.8 million and fire renovations $2.2 million. With continued city growth, he said he expects the debts to be paid off in 13 to 14 years.

Greenbrier has about 4,700 residents. It lies 12 miles northeast of Conway along U.S. 65.

Hartwick said he wants Greenbrier to work toward establishing a full-time fire department.

That won't happen soon, he said, but eventually will help residents with insurance coverage relating to fire protection.

The city bought 54 acres for a park three years ago and doesn't plan to develop all of it immediately.

He said park construction will include walking trails, a splash-pad water feature, an area for sand volleyball, basketball courts, a large pavilion, picnic areas, a park for large dogs and one for small dogs, playground areas accessible to people with disabilities, and a fishing pond with a covered dock also accessible to people with disabilities.

State Desk on 02/14/2018

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