First town hall meet­ing tonight

Moehring to de­cide if more needed

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

BENTONVILLE — Ben­ton County of­fi­cials hope county res­i­dents will turn out for a series of town hall meet­ings, but they ac­knowl­edge the past isn’t en­cour­ag­ing.

County Judge Barry Moehring will hold four town hall meet­ings over the next five weeks, and said he will de­cide whether more will be held af­ter he sees the re­sponse. The first town hall is set for 6 p.m. tonight at the Gen­try Pub­lic Li­brary, 105 E. Main St.

Moehring said he wants peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in county gov­ern­ment.

“We get few peo­ple to our Quo­rum Court meet­ings,” Moehring said. “We

have a few peo­ple who will com­mu­ni­cate with us at the county level. This ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing is in the cen­ter of Bentonville, which is in the cen­ter of the de­vel­oped por­tion of Ben­ton County, but it’s a long way from some of the un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas. My hope is that we’ll bring some of our plans and pro­grams to the peo­ple. The cit­i­zens of Ben­ton County give us sev­eral tens of mil­lions of their tax dol­lars ev­ery year. They de­serve to have some in­put on how we use that.”

Town hall meet­ings for county gov­ern­ment are not a new con­cept. Kurt Moore, jus­tice of the peace for District 13 on the west side of the county, said sev­eral county judges have held sim­i­lar meet­ings and the re­sults were mixed.

“I think just about all of them have,” Moore said of county judges hold­ing town hall meet­ings. “Bob Cli­nard did and I know Dave Bis­bee and Gary Black both did dur­ing their ad­min­is­tra­tions.”

Dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the county have shown dif­fer­ent lev­els of in­ter­est in past meet­ings. The most in­ter­est has been when a spe­cific is­sue has driven the turnout, Moore said.

“Ob­vi­ously if you have a hot is­sue, like the am­bu­lance ser­vice, you have more turnout,” Moore said. “For some rea­son meet­ings in the north­east and east­ern parts of the county tend to be well at­tended. I’m not sure ex­actly why. If there’s no spe­cific is­sue it tends to be the usual things — roads, po­lice and, to a lesser ex­tent, fire pro­tec­tion. In the more gen­eral meet­ings, you’re go­ing to have more peo­ple with an axe to grind than you are those who’re go­ing to say, ‘atta boy.’”

County As­ses­sor Rod­er­ick Grieve said sched­ul­ing prob­lems will keep him from the first two meet­ings, but Grieve said his of­fice gets a good amount of pub­lic con­tacts.

“On a daily ba­sis we have peo­ple who are walk­ing up or call­ing in,” Grieve said. “They come in to as­sess their prop­erty, to get a copy of a par­cel card or ask a ques­tion about GIS. So we have daily, faceto-face con­tacts with lots of peo­ple. We’re al­ways here.”

Pat Adams, jus­tice of the peace for District 6 that cov­ers part of north­ern and east­ern Ben­ton County, said he hopes peo­ple will at­tend, but he is not op­ti­mistic.

“I kind of feel like most folks in Ben­ton County are kind of busy, and the last thing on their minds is county gov­ern­ment,” Adams said. “I’d like to see as many peo­ple come out as pos­si­ble. I don’t care if they’re for county gov­ern­ment or against county gov­ern­ment. We’re the fastest grow­ing county in the state and maybe in the na­tion. I’d like to see peo­ple take more of an in­ter­est in what their lo­cal gov­ern­ments are do­ing.”


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