BENTONVILLE -- Benton County's justices of the peace voted in favor of making the speed limit 40 miles per hour on unpaved roads without signage in unincorporated areas of the county.
The justices of the peace voted on the issue Thursday at the Quorum Court's Committee of the Whole meeting.
Jay Frasier, county administrator of public service, said a 1989 ordinance set the speed limit at 55 mph on unpaved roads in the county.
The new ordinance would reduce the speed limit to 40 mph on unmarked roads that aren't paved, which would match state law, Frasier said.
Frasier said reducing the speed limit on unposted and unpaved roads is necessary for the safety of the general public, road workers and sheriff's deputies. He said road crews have about 15 close calls each year while working on dirt roads.
"My main focus is my men working on these roads every day," Frasier said. "These guys are out there working every day putting their lives on the line."
County Judge Barry Moehring said the county's most traveled roads are paved and he did not believe it would lead to the Sheriff's Office writing more tickets.
Justice of the Peace Dustin Todd said the intent is to ensure the safety of the public, county workers and emergency responders. He said the county will not be getting money from speeding tickets since it will be a state violation.
Justice of the Peace Jeff Dunn said he believes it will solve a lot of problems.
The justices of the peace voted 13-1 to approve the ordinance. The measure must be passed by the Quorum Court, which meets next on March 30.
Justice of the Peace Joseph Bollinger was the lone vote against the ordinance. Bollinger said a bill was filed Thursday in the Arkansas House concerning speed limits and he wants to wait on the outcome of that bill before enacting the ordinance.
Bollinger wanted feedback at the meeting about giving justices of the peace a chance to respond to public comments at committee meetings. He said he wasn't proposing justices of the peace have back-and-forth exchanges with the public at tmeetings, but he wants to set aside time for justices of the peace to respond at the end of public comments.
He said his proposal concerns only committee meetings, not Quorum Court meetings.
Justice of the Peace Joel Jones said he's comfortable with justices of the peace replying to specific comments, but he did not believe there should be back-and-forth exchanges between Quorum Court members and the public. Justice of the Peace Kurt Moore, who chairs the Committee of the Whole, said he prefers each committee decide for itself whether it replies to comments.
Moore said he also wanted feedback from elected officials before proceeding with the issue. He said he is willing to continue the discussion at another Committee of the Whole meeting.