Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

TOP STORY >> State check will pay for upgrading Lonoke jail

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Things may be looking up for the overcrowded, decrepit Lonoke County Jail, the result of a General Improvement Fund check for $290,000 due to be presented to County Judge Charlie Troutman at 2 p.m. Friday.
The money for jail improvement was secured through the efforts of state Sen. Bobby Glover, D-Carlisle; state Rep. Lenville Evans, D-Lonoke and state Rep. Susan Schulte, R-Cabot.

The state Department of Finance and Administration began writing about $53 million worth of General Improvement Fund checks for 2,100 projects late last week, ac-cording to Richard Weiss, director.
Among the checks not being cut are several for Jacksonville-area improvements, most of them sponsored by state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville.

Jacksonville attorney Mike Wilson has sued, saying that state funding for most of the project is illegal and citing the Jacksonville projects by name.

Proctor has put a temporary halt to disbursement of funds for the projects named in the suit, saying it was not unreasonable to think Wilson might prevail, but no hearing date has been set.

Wilson, a former state representative, says the funding violates Amendment 14, which bans state-funded local legislation. The Jacksonville projects named in the case are:

• $190,000 for the new Esther D. Nixon Library.
• $50,000 to the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club.
• $50,000 to the Jacksonville Senior Center.
• $20,000 to the City of Jacksonville.
• $10,000 to the Jacksonville Museum of Military History.
• $10,000 for the Reed’s Bridge Preservation Society.

Jacksonville voters in July approved a one-mill property tax increase to finance $2.5 million in bonds to build the new library.

“My understanding is they have started cutting checks after Aug. 25. There’s no court order prohibiting it, with exception of ones the judge asked be put on hold,” said Weiss, head of the DFA.

Writing the checks, however, must be fit into regular state business like paying bills and issuing paychecks.
“But the process has begun,” said Weiss.