FORT SMITH -- Residents will have more than a dozen places to cast their ballots on two sales tax questions posed to them early next year.
The Sebastian County Election Commission approved the ballot for the Feb. 8 special election at its meeting Tuesday. It also signed off on the vote centers that will be open for early voting and Election Day voting.
David Damron, commission chairman, said the city wanted every early voting site in the city, as well as all day-of-election sites, open.
"We just want all residents to have that accessibility to go out and cast their vote," City Clerk Sherri Gard said after the meeting.
The early voting centers residents can use will be Room G8 in the Sebastian County Courthouse, Martin Luther King Park, the Creekmore Community Center, the Ben Geren Park Tornado Shelter and Rye Hill Baptist Church.
The vote centers that will be open Election Day will include:
• Grand Avenue Baptist Church
• Baker Senior Center
• St. Luke Lutheran Church
• Elm Grove Community Center at Martin Luther King Park
• Creekmore Community Center
• St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church
• St. John's Episcopal Church
• Nelson-Hall Beckman Center
• Fort Smith Public Library, Windsor Branch
• Ramsey Middle School Tornado Shelter
• Orr Elementary School Tornado Shelter
• Fort Smith Senior Activity Center
• Forefront Church
• East Side Baptist Church
• Cliff Terrace Church
• Ben Geren Park Tornado Shelter
• Rye Hill Baptist Church
This doesn't include the American Legion vote center at 4901 Midland Blvd. The commission tabled closing the center while also voting to open the Baker Senior Center for voting in future elections Tuesday.
Meghan Hassler, county election coordinator, said the Baker Senior Center voting site had 497 voters during the 2016 general election. However, the American Legion vote center, which was opened in 2020 as a replacement for the Baker Senior Center, only had 112 voters during the general election that year.
"And so we felt like there was a group of voters that was lost, possibly," Hassler said. "Baker Senior was glad to have us come back, and so we're going to go back there and see if we can regain some of those voters."
Fort Smith's current sales tax rate is 9.75%, according to the city's finance department. Two percent of this amount goes to the city and is dedicated as follows: 1% for streets, drainage and bridges; 0.75% for redemption of sales and use tax bond issues; and 0.25% for Fire and Parks department operations and capital projects.
City directors approved putting the matter of reallocating the 0.75% tax for Police Department and sewer consent decree purposes before voters in a Feb. 8 special election at its meeting Nov. 16, according to the minutes from that meeting. The tax would run from Jan. 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2032, if approved, the ballot states.
The consent decree was issued in January 2015 from Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality against Fort Smith for city sewer repairs after decades of sewage runoff into waterways including the Arkansas River. The decree stated the city would spend "more than $200 million over the next 12 years" to upgrade its sewer collection and treatment.
The board also approved referring a 20-year extension of the 0.25% tax to voters in February. An approval would keep the tax in place until Sept. 30, 2042.
Early voting for the Fort Smith Special Election begins Feb. 1.
Source: Sebastian County Election Commission