County voters turn out in record numbers, turn down Fairplex proposal

By Martin Couch

A record special election turnout of 13,807 voters from Aug. 3 through 10, Saline County residents voted down a proposed 1-cent county-wide sales tax to fund a 55-million dollar Fairplex facility that was to be constructed at the county's old fairgrounds.

The tax was voted down 10,314 to 3,450 (74.93 percent to 25.07 percent), while two other bonds that were to be for reserve and other costs were also voted down by nearly the same margin. The final numbers of Tuesday's election came in quickly to the Saline County Clerk's office and, by 8:45 p.m., the decision was final.[more]

Not a single precinct in the county came in for the tax. The closest margin was at the Turtle Creek polling station where it was voted down by 14 votes.

"I think we fought a good fight," said Jill Jones, Executive Director of Benton Advertising and Promotion in an exclusive interview with following the election. "I was pleased we had the opportunity to do it. We had a record turnout of voters and that was wonderful. The percentages surprised me a little bit, but it was a great experience and I got to meet people all over the county."

As election results were being distributed by the hardworking staff at the clerk's office, others like Johnny McMahan of Bauxite, was among those awaiting the results.

"The voters have rejected it," McMahan said, who wrote a lengthy editorial about his opposition to the Fairplex. "The economy is still bad."

The Saline County T.E.A. Party was also involved in opposing the Fairplex.

"The county cannot keep up with the responsibility they have now," said T.E.A. Party member Loren Chambers, Sr. "Why add to the problem? Our roads in my neighborhood get very little attention. They have only been cut seven times in the past five years, by the county three times. And the rest of the time, me and my neighbor have done it with our money of our pockets footing the bill."

Others liked the idea like Benton Alderman Brad Moore.

"Private developers have never funded a municipal project with 100 percent private money (Verizon Arena, Summit Arena, Cowboys Stadium, Busch Stadium, etc…)," Moore said. "A limited theme park was not proposed. To say that the Fairplex was invalid, because a private developer is unwilling to build it themselves in inaccurate. The private development will follow the public's investment in their community."

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