First town hall meeting tonight
Moehring to decide if more needed
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.”