Today is the day Phillips County voters go to the polls to determine the fate of a proposition to finance a new jail and law enforcement facility. Early voting began on Dec. 5.

And right up to the last minute the debate rages. However, opposition to the new jail has not been terribly vocal at least in the mainstream media. The city's opposition to the proposal in a town hall session back on Nov. 20 was lightly attended.

Today is the day Phillips County voters go to the polls to determine the fate of a proposition to finance a new jail and law enforcement facility. Early voting began on Dec. 5.

And right up to the last minute the debate rages. However, opposition to the new jail has not been terribly vocal at least in the mainstream media. The city's opposition to the proposal in a town hall session back on Nov. 20 was lightly attended.

According to proponents, no new tax will be involved. It was explained that what is referred to as the Harbor Tax" will sunset or end in 2020. A "yes" vote means that the tax will be resurrected and a portion of the proceeds will be used to fund the jail project. A "no" vote means the one-cent sales tax will come off the books, trimming revenue not only from the county but the five incorporated communities within the county as well.

Figures presented by the city at the town hall session indicated that the city of Helena-West Helena stood to lose $1,109,000 in revenue if the measure fails and $693,000 if the proposal passes, making it appear as though it is a lose-lose situation for the city. Mayor Jay Hollowell said it would be difficult to make up the deficit either way. He alluded to the possibility that it could result in a major loss of city services.

Meanwhile the city and the county have both been hit hard by the costs incurred by having to house prisoners in jails in other counties. Not only are the entities responsible for feeding and housing of those incarcerated but also for the transportation to and from court and health care services. These frequent journeys also take law enforcement officers away from Phillips Count and off the streets of Helena-West Helena.

Local attorney Don Etherly suggested that the expenses currently being incurred for housing the prisoners in other jails might be cheaper in the long run than regular maintenance of a jail. However, no one has actually put a pencil to those figures. It should also be pointed out that the responsibility for the upkeep of the jail primarily falls on the shoulders of the county regardless of the fact that the city is the primary user of the jail.

At this point, it appears as though perhaps the city needs to bite the bullet here. The revenue of car maintenance for gasoline for transportation to and from other counties as well as food and housing bills would return to the city coffers. The council could also refrain from doling out Christmas bonuses among themselves that they cannot afford as they have done in the past.

Too many repeat offenders are out on the streets because the judicial system has used the excuse of having no jail for handing down suspended sentences or probation rather than jail time.

Only 16 of Arkansas's 75 counties do not own and operate a jail facility. It seems the time is right is right for Phillips County to reduce that number to 15.

Regardless of how you feel on this matter, please get out and vote.