021118-nws-franklin-3 (copy)

The Franklin County Courthouse is pictured on Feb. 10, 2018. Voters on Tuesday approved a 1 percent increase in the sales tax to pay for construction of a new courthouse to replace the 150-year-old building.

BENTON — The third time's the charm for Franklin County officials who have been trying since 2015 to convince voters to fund construction or repair of a new courthouse.

Voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure that will allow the county to impose a 1 percent increase of its share of local sales tax for no longer than 15 years. The tax increase will fund construction of a new courthouse as well as renovations to the Campbell Building to accommodate Franklin County Clerk and Treasurer offices.

Prior to Tuesday’s referendum, there were two efforts to get voters on board with a tax increase to help cover the costs of either renovating the current or building a new courthouse.

In the April 2017 election, voters turned down a 1 percent sales tax increase that would have lasted no more than 20 years, ending as soon as the last payment on the new courthouse was made, or when the construction fund had enough to pay off the debt.

During a presentation on the proposal in 2017, Crocker said this plan was attractive, at least in one sense, because not all of the burden would fall on residents of the county, as a property tax increase would. Instead, some of it will fall on people who venture off the interstate and visit the county.

A similar proposal that would have raised sales tax in the county by .25 percent to make repairs to the courthouse failed in 2015.

Crocker said the concern is multifaceted. First is the basic infrastructure of the 150-year-old building. Recent tours of the historic, but crumbling, courthouse reveal bulging walls in the basement and crumbling plaster. Then there is the antique electrical wiring and an old boiler system.

On top of all of this is the retrofitted computer system, built to accommodate a building that barely knew electric lighting, much less high-speed internet, when it was constructed.

Crocker said county and court officials also have voiced concern regarding safety. Inmates and witnesses, as well as jurors, all use the same entrance and the same set of stairs or elevator to go to court on the second and third floors. He and other have said this does not follow current best practices for courtroom and courthouse safety.

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On Twitter: @ismithreports



Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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