Lincoln Voters Choose Mayor, Defeat Tax Request
LINCOLN — Lincoln City Council member Doug Hutchens will be the next mayor of Lincoln, but he will head the city without the benefit of revenue from a new .75-percent sales tax.
Hutchens was elected mayor in the Nov. 6 general election with 301 votes or 56.58 percent, based on unofficial results from the Washington County Election Commission. Other candidates on the ballot were Chris Porter with 119 votes (22.37 percent) and Jason Davis with 112 votes (21.05 percent).
Hutchens, 47, is owner/manager of
R&R Truck and Trailer Inc., and has been a member of Lincoln City Council for more than 12 years.
Voters defeated Lincoln’s request for a .75-percent sales tax by about 58 percent to 42 percent. Unofficial election results show that 314 people voted against the question and 229 people voted in favor of it.
According to the Washington County Clerk’s Office, Lincoln has 1,245 registered voters which means the city had a voter turnout of about 43 percent for the sales tax election.
The day after the election, Hutchens said he was happy with the results of the mayor’s race and was looking forward to getting started. However, he added he was disappointed with the sales tax results on the ballot.
Lincoln City Council had pledged to use proceeds from the sales tax to hire two more police officers and use any money left over to help with costs for other priorities, such as cleaning up the city and code enforcement. The city has five officers, including a chief’s position and a school resource officer.
“We’re getting ready to start the budget for 2019 and will have to see what we’ll be able to do without those funds,” Hutchens said.
Hutchens said he would like to be able to hire at least one more police officer next year but said city staff will have to look at different line items in the budget to determine if funds can be rearranged.
“We’ll re-evaluate our budget for the year and see what we can do,” Hutchens said.
Hutchens pointed out the sales tax defeat was not a “slam dunk” and he was not surprised by the results.
Hutchens said several factors probably affected the vote. For one, Mayor Rob Hulse fired the city’s police chief, Brian Key, on Oct. 27. At the request of the. At the request of the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, the Arkansas State Police is investigating Key but no information has been released about the investigation or why Key was fired as police chief.
“I think part of it was the disruption in the police force,” Hutchens said.
Another news item that occurred in recent weeks was a suggestion for the county to consider asking voters to approve a new sales tax to expand the county detention center.
“It was just all bad timing,” Hutchens said. “I just hate it for everyone involved but we’re hopeful and we’re moving forward.”
Voters leaving the polling place last week gave reasons why they voted for the sales tax or why they opposed it.
Those who said they voted against the tax declined to give their names. One man said he’s out and about at night and he does not see a lot going on in the city.
“I don’t think it’s warranted,” the voter said.
Another man said he thought the city was asking for too much. He said he probably would have supported a smaller sales tax increase.
Still another said he opposed it because Lincoln’s sales tax rate would be higher than Fayetteville’s rate.
Deon Birkes, Lincoln athletic director, said he voted for the tax.
“It’s all about improving our town,” Birkes said. “I’m a lifer. I think it’s a great town.”
Catherine Cobb and her husband supported the tax, she said, because of “what it stands for.”
Another voter, Sharon Gullick, said, “They need two more police officers here in Lincoln. It’s really not that much. I think it may be beneficial.”
Like Hutchens, Hulse also said he was disappointed the sales tax proposal did not pass. He said he hopes to get feedback from voters on their concerns and why they didn’t support the proposal.
“I think we definitely identified that this is what we needed. I feel we were transparent on why we needed it,” Hulse said. “We feel very strongly we need to increase our staff in the police department to maintain the health of the department and the health of the city.”
He said city officials will look at all options available so see how they can help the situation and help the police staff.
As mayor, Hutchens said his priorities will be to rebuild the police department and help police morale, start working on goals that are in the city’s future land use plan and master street plan and to continue with a major project for a new water storage tank.