BENTONVILLE -- The Benton County Quorum Court on Thursday approved the third and final reading of an ordinance to change all unposted speed limits on unincorporated roads to 40 miles per hour.
Jay Frasier, county administrator of public service, previously said a 1989 ordinance set the speed limit at 55 mph on unpaved roads in the county.
Reducing the speed limit on unposted and unpaved roads is necessary for the safety of the public, road workers and sheriff's deputies, Frasier said. Road crews have about 15 close calls each year while working on dirt roads, he said.
The justices of the peace voted 13-1 in favor of the ordinance. Joseph Bollinger was the lone vote against the ordinance.
"The Benton County Road Department and Benton County Sheriff's Office are in agreement that these rural roads be changed to 40 miles per hour for the safety of our drivers and residents," Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said. "Many of these roads are not highly trafficked and any roads that do have an already posted speed limit will not be affected by this ordinance."
Frasier said the safety of Benton County drivers and the crews working on these roads led to the decision to lower the speed limit by 15 mph.
Most of the county's highly trafficked roads have a posted speed limit and the new ordinance applies only to unposted roads which are less traveled and located mostly in rural parts of the county, according to a news release from the county.
Signs will be posted to inform drivers of the 15-mph change, and a social media campaign has also been launched to inform drivers of the change, according to the release.
The ordinance can be enforced 30 days after its published date.
Bollinger, when contacted after the meeting, said there were a couple of reasons he voted against the measure.
Rather than an across-the-board speed limit reduction, he'd prefer the reduction be applied only to areas where road crews or others are working, what he called a "more localized" solution.
In addition, Bollinger said, he's uncomfortable with the change because the public will have had little notice about it, and a person stopped for going 15 mph over the speed limit by state law can be charged with a low-level misdemeanor.
"It's just concerning to have it drop all at once and potentially turn people into criminals," he said. "I don't think it's responsible to drop it 15 miles per hour."
In other business at Thursday's meeting, the Quorum Court voted 14-0 to spend nearly $1 million on improvements to the Benton County Jail.
Bo Reynolds with Trane, a manufacturer of heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, gave a presentation concerning the jail at the Quorum Court's last Finance Committee meeting May 9.
Reynolds said improving ventilation in the jail was a focus of the company's study. He recommended replacing the two sets of boilers in the jail. One set is for heating and air units, and the other provides hot water.
Reynolds also recommended replacing the jail's exhaust fans and bringing the electrical system up to code.
County Comptroller Deborah Fischer said the $550,000 to address the air quality and the exhaust fans would come out of the county's American Rescue Plan Act funds, while the $360,000 for the boilers would come from money dedicated to capital projects -- a total of $910,000.
Meeting date change
The Benton County Quorum Court voted Thursday to change the date of its June meeting from June 22 to June 29.
Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette