New county-funded road raises questions

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A new road near the Washington County Jail is intended to make it easier for sheriff deputies to enter and exit the facility. Not everyone is convinced it’s a wise investment.

“We’re doing this when we have a perfectly good road right here,” said Eva Madison, justice of the peace, pointing toward Clydesdale Drive.

Madison said she’s concerned the new road under construction may prove to be a waste of taxpayer money.

“It’s beyond me why we’re doing a road this massive when we’ve got people wanting their roads paved out in the county,” Madison said. “If I were a taxpayer, I certainly would be concerned about what was being done with my tax money.”

The road provides another entry and exit point connecting to Clydesdale, the main road. County Attorney Brian Lester said it’ll open up travel in case of emergencies and allow officers to bypass Clydesdale when trucks from McBride Distributing and Tyson block the way.

“They have a process, and without them having to go through and actually redesign, redo what they’re doing [which would] probably cost them a lot of money,” Lester said. “It makes sense that we just come in and add a little secondary access there.”

Madison said the idea that the main road gets blocked frequently enough to warrant an access road is overblown.

“I’ve been out here many times. The road’s never been blocked,” Madison said. “I just think that McBride and Tyson are really good members of our community. If there were ever an issue with them blocking vehicles, I think they would help us resolve it.”

Sheriff Tim Helder said a 2011 assessment from the Department of Homeland Security resulted in four security measures, three of which he declined to speak about. He said one was the new road.

“There was an assessment done, and if there was a disaster, you absolutely have to have a secondary egress point to get out of here,” Helder said.

Lester said the county doesn’t yet have a price estimate for the project. Madison said she hopes questioning the road’s creation leads to an educated constituency.

“I want more people to pay attention to what the county is doing with their money because there’s only so much elected officials can do,” Madison said.

Lester said the road will open soon.

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