Open house held at new Bella Vista court fa­cil­ity

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT

Bella Vista’s new court fa­cil­ity held an open house last Fri­day evening.

The gen­eral pub­lic was able to am­ble through and take a close look at the court build­ing, and city staff and of­fi­cials were on­hand to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion.

The fa­cil­ity, lo­cated at 612 W. Lan­cashire, will have its first court date this month. Ad­di­tion­ally, city coun­cil meet­ings will be in the court­room start­ing this month.

Af­ter Nov. 1, any ci­ta­tions is­sued in Bella Vista will be paid to the Bella Vista depart­ment of the district court. These fines can be paid in per­son or on­line at the city’s web­site. For more in­for­ma­tion, the court clerk, Tabitha Tichenor can be reached at 479367-7625.

Tichenor said she en­cour­ages peo­ple to call be­fore head­ing to the court to pay their fines. This al­lows her to con­firm that she has re­ceived the in­for­ma­tion and can ac­cept pay­ment, she said.

Judge Ray Bunch, who will be hold­ing court in the fresh fa­cil­ity, said he was im­pressed with how it turned out. He did not ex­pect it to look so good, he said.

He will have to have a few court days to get used to every­thing, he said, but it looks well planned.

“It’s a nice fa­cil­ity,” he said. “Can’t wait to get started here.”

Mayor Peter Christie ex­plained that the fa­cil­ity still needed a pair of ta­bles and new hard­ware for the doors, as well as some other, smaller things, but other­wise it’s ready to go.

Along­side the court­room, he pointed out of­fices for the city’s

staff at­tor­ney, the judge and visit­ing at­tor­neys.

There’s a se­cure back door, he said, along with im­proved park­ing at the rear of the build­ing. In­mates will be brought in through the back, he ex­plained.

Be­hind the front win­dow, just in­side the door, is an of­fice for the court clerk. Ad­di­tional se­cu­rity, he said, is pro­vided by a se­ries of cam­eras that cover nearly the en­tire build­ing and feed into that of­fice.

There’s also an IT closet with its own cool­ing sys­tem, he said, as well as two bath­rooms.

An­other im­por­tant space, he said, is a wait­ing area for po­lice of­fi­cers who show up to tes­tify.

The new court was needed, he said, in part be­cause of ris­ing costs but also for the city’s safety. When the city has its court day in Ben­tonville, he said, of­fi­cers of­ten end up spend­ing the whole day out of town.

“I’ve seen as many as 10 down in Ben­tonville, and what hap­pens if some­thing hap­pens here?” Christie asked.

If there’s an emer­gency, he said, that sce­nario puts a third of the city’s po­lice force roughly 15 miles away.

The city’s staff at­tor­ney, Jason Kel­ley, said he was glad to help ad­dress that is­sue and po­ten­tially save the city money. While there are sig­nif­i­cant up­front costs, he said, in the long run this should prove less ex­pen­sive than rent in Ben­tonville.

“I think it’s great when we can do some­thing in the long term that saves us money,” he said.

He han­dled a lot of the le­gal leg­work when this process started ap­prox­i­mately one year ago, he said, but the project has been a joint ef­fort of nearly ev­ery­one in the city.

“There’s some aspect of every­thing that we do that’s in­volved in get­ting it started,” he said.

Po­lice chief James Graves was the project man­ager while the fa­cil­ity was un­der con­struc­tion. He’s happy with the work, he said, and he was glad to see the city come to­gether and make a larger project hap­pen.

“It was hard to en­vi­sion what it would look like,” he said, “but it came out re­ally, re­ally good.”

Tichenor, the city’s court clerk, said she started in Septem­ber of this year. There’s been plenty to keep her busy, she said.

She pre­vi­ously worked with the cir­cuit court in New­ton County, she said, and she came to Bella Vista look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent. A chance to build a new court, she said, was an in­ter­est­ing prospect.

“It was time for a change of pace,” she said. “I thought it was an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity.”

She’s got­ten a warm wel­come from Bella Vista, she said, and any­one with ques­tions should call the court.

“I’m ready for court to get started and start on reg­u­lar du­ties,” Tichenor said.

One vis­i­tor, Anne Mid­dle­ton, said she moved to Bella Vista in Au­gust. She came from Den­ton, Texas, near Dal­las, she said.

She’s been learn­ing what she can about the city, she said, at­tend­ing city coun­cil meet­ings and read­ing up on what she can. Show­ing up at the open house was one more op­por­tu­nity, she ex­plained, to learn about her new home — though with any luck, she said, she won’t have to come back to the court aside from, per­haps, an­other coun­cil meet­ing.

“This will be good for Bella Vista to be able to take care of its busi­ness in Bella Vista,” Mid­dle­ton said.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Sev­eral city of­fi­cials, em­ploy­ees and vis­i­tors showed up for an open house last Fri­day evening at Bella Vista’s new court fa­cil­ity, lo­cated at 612 W. Lan­cashire Blvd.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

City coun­cil mem­ber Linda Lloyd (left), talks with fi­nance direc­tor Cary El­sten while try­ing out a seat at the new court fa­cil­ity. The fa­cil­ity will be used for city coun­cil meet­ings start­ing this month.

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