Open house held at new Bella Vista court facility
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.
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.
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.