LINCOLN -- Lincoln voters gave their support for a local 1% sales and use tax to help fund the police and fire departments in a special election Nov. 3.
Two years ago, it was a different outcome. Voters defeated Lincoln's request for a 0.75% sales tax by about 58% to 42%.
This time around, almost 54% of the votes were cast in favor of the new sales tax, with 46% against. The ballot question was written so that revenue from the new tax will be dedicated solely for the police and fire departments and cannot be used for anything else.
The final but unofficial results:
For...........403 votes (53.95%)
Against......344 votes (46.05%)
"We're glad the voters turned out to support Lincoln's police and fire departments," Mayor Doug Hutchens said Wednesday after the election. "I would like to have had a bigger percentage of 'fors,' but a win is a win."
Police Chief Kenneth Albright also expressed his appreciation last week for the vote.
"First and foremost, I want to say thank you to the voters who supported us," Albright said. "That means a lot."
Albright said the police department hopes to hire two new officers as the money becomes available.
"That would put us at eight officers and it means better coverage, in a nutshell," Albright said. "I'm really grateful that it passed."
Lincoln Fire Chief Willie Leming, who serves as a volunteer fire chief, said the sales tax will give the city the opportunity to return the chief's position to the city as a paid employee.
Presently, the city has a full-time fire administrator, Jay Norton. Norton is retiring at the end of the year and city officials have discussed a plan to hire a full-time fire chief/fire administrator to replace Norton.
Norton, who lives in the city and voted for the tax, said he was glad the community supported the proposal.
"Now, the City Council and the mayor can pursue adding personnel to the police department and taking care of my replacement," Norton said.
The city received more than 15 applications for the fire chief's position, according to Rhonda Hulse, city business manager. She said applicants are from Arkansas but also out of state.
Hutchens said the city's police and fire committee will start the process to select candidates to interview. Hutchens said the hire is ultimately his decision but he plans to follow the recommendation of the police and fire committee, with input from Leming and Norton.
The key will be finding a new chief who has the qualifications for the job and also works well with volunteers and is a good fit for the department, Hutchens said.
Several residents last week offered comments on how they voted on the 1% sales tax question.
Toni Walton said she voted in favor of the tax.
"I think we need it in town to support our fire and police," Walton said.
Another voter, Gayle Bradford, also voted for the tax.
"Our police and fire departments need all the help they can get, especially now," Bradford said.
City Council member Johnny Stowers also said he voted for the tax.
"It's simple," Stowers said. "We need it. The police department needs it. The fire department needs it."
Darren Hoops said he voted against the tax because the "town is going down." He said he didn't see where the city would spend the money.
"Westville has more to do in their town than we do," Hoops said.
Carol Miller said she voted no because she believes taxes are already too high.
"I try to do local business and I want my money to go to local people," Miller said, noting that too many people go to Siloam Springs or Fayetteville, instead of shopping local.
Another resident, Joanne (she declined to give her last name), said she voted against it because she believes taxes are too high.
"I'm on a fixed income. My thinking is that you have to make do with what you have. I feel like they might could find the money by budgeting better," Joanne said.