FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington County Quorum Court voted to move about $335,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds toward an expansion of the jail and juvenile justice center.
The funds will go toward the architecture and design of the expansion. The idea to use ARPA funds for a bigger jail doesn’t have unanimous support in the county. During Thursday’s meeting Eva Madison, justice of the peace for district 9, said the funds should be used for community organizations instead.
“We’re taking the money that could be used for the community, the only money that has restrictions and tying it up on a jail expansion to say to Washington we don’t care about your guidelines because there not laws,” Madison said.
Patrick Deakins, justice of the peace for district 5, said his priority for American Rescue Plan money will continue to be a jail expansion.
“We received those dollars from the federal government to offset the impacts of Covid in the county, where is that more apparent than in our detention centers?” Deakins said.
A U.S. Treasury ruling stated that using ARPA funds for expanding the jail is an ineligible use for the funds.
“We need to be reminded of our fiduciary obligations to the citizens of this county,” Madison said.
However, Deakins told KNWA/FOX 24 that the treasury rules are a matter of interpretation.
Sarah Moore with the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition said she hopes the county considers using ARPA funds for community groups.
“I find it really strange that we’re putting a priority on expanding the jail, instead of taking care of these organizations that oftentimes will prevent folks from having to go to jail,” Moore said.
If the $20 million expansion continues to move forward, it could be completed by 2025.