Exploring options for Madison County’s jail issue

by Sarah Capp and Bob Ballinger State Representatives

The struggle of counties trying to find ways to fund the incarceration of criminals is nothing unique or new. In the last few years, many other counties have had to address funding issues concerning their county jails. Like Madison County, budgets have been hit hard by the costs incurred by having to house prisoners in jails in other counties. Not only is the county responsible for housing of those incarcerated, but also for the transportation to and from court and for healthcare services. These transportation obligations take law enforcement officers away from Madison County and off the streets of our towns and cities, making our communities less safe. So, how do we fix it?
The voters of Madison County have rejected a tax to pay for a new jail three times now. Currently, those arrested in the county stay for 24 hours before they are sent to the Washington County Detention Center at the tune of $62 a day per prisoner. The long-term viability of sustaining this protocol is heavy on the minds of local leaders and townspeople.
Recently, many counties have addressed these same issues and how to move forward, including Franklin, Logan, Marion, Phillips, Baxter and Woodruff counties. None of the aforementioned counties had the luxury of tapping into their general budget to fund constructing new facilities. Normally, the answer lies in capital improvement bonds and taxes.
As far as state funding availability, Madison County is eligible for a USDA Community Facility Loan with favorable terms, 3.5 percent fixed interest rate up to 40 years. Additionally, the county is eligible for a grant of 15 percent of the project costs up to a max of $50,000 through the USDA Community Facilities Grant Program. Every dollar from outside of the county helps, but it is clear that we will have to generate the bulk of the revenue ourselves. It’s important to develop a plan that is best for Madison County.
The answer may also be a regional jail shared by several counties or managed exclusively by Madison County. This would help the county in that we could enter into a longterm contract with the state to house state inmates in our unutilized space at a rate that would generate some revenue for the county. It is possible that we could collect enough from the state to pay back a bond and help fund the operations of our new jail.
This solution also has potential drawbacks. It would mean that the county would be constructing a facility that would be bigger and more expensive than we acutely need to serve the county. It would also mean that, longterm, we would be dependent on the state to continue to utilize the space or we would be stuck with the full costs associated with the jail’s operation. Regardless, the community should have the opportunity to weigh those risks associated with the state cooperation option.
Next week, we will be meeting with local leaders to share ideas and information and hopefully help develop a plan that would allow our county to move forward using a conservative approach that benefits the county and her people.
We’re committed to finding solutions and believe one is on the horizon.

Grateful for Modern Medicine

Polly Ann Ballinger
Healthcare is often a hot political football. Both sides fight over what government’s role should be in health choices and the financing of healthcare. I obviously have my opinion (like with most things, I don’t see more government as the answer to the problem, but the problem itself), but in this article I just hope to express my gratitude to live in a country with the best healthcare in the world. On Dec. 30 at 7:19 p.m., my wife and I were blessed with a new baby girl, little Ms. Polly Ann Ballinger. This was our eighth baby overall, so we thought we knew what we were getting into.

Labor was progressing slow and steady and momma and baby were both doing real well. Sometime shortly after 7, Polly’s heart rate dropped drastically and we couldn’t get it up. Dr. Lisa Bearden and the staff at Northwest Medical Center worked quickly to get Jessica back to the O.R. for an emergency cesarean. In the process, they discovered that Jessica’s uterus had completely ruptured and that she had lost a lot of blood.

A complete uterine rupture is a serious complication for both the mother and the baby where the lining of the uterus ruptures and the baby moves through the opening into the mother’s abdomen. This obviously requires immediate surgical intervention, without which the life of the mother and baby would likely be lost. Fortunately, complete uterine ruptures are extremely rare. But often, even with modern medicine, they are fatal.

Dr. Lisa Bearden and the hospital staff were professionals who were full of compassion. Without their close observation, through the instruments of modern medical technology, we may not have even been aware of the drop in Polly’s heart rate and the need for intervention. Without a skilled doctor and nursing staff, they may not have recognized the emergency and moved quickly, or may not even be able to carry out the procedures in a way that would preserve the life and health of my baby and my wife.

When faced with a rare and catastrophic emergency, Dr. Bearden and the staff stayed cool and acted with as much precision as possible in the situation. I am glad that God put us in a time and place where this type of care is available and an individual like Dr. Bearden could be there for my family. There is no doubt that the hand of God was involved in so many aspects of what led up to the events that occurred a little after 7 p.m. on Dec. 30, but it was the hands of Dr. Bearden and the staff that God used to save the lives of Jessica and Polly Ann that night.

As things get more and more crazy in this world, and we reminisce about how things used to be, I want to be sure that I recognize that we still have a lot to be grateful for. Today, I am grateful for a new healthy baby and wife. I am also grateful for the wonders of modern medicine and the hands of trained professionals who serve us in healthcare. 
See,  Grateful for Modern Medicine

Congressman Bruce Westerman Endorsement

"Having served alongside Bob Ballinger in the State House, I quickly learned that he is a strong conservative that understands the issues and works hard on behalf of his constituents as well as all of Arkansas. I've also met Bob's family and know that he has done a good job as husband, father, and mentor. Residents in Senate District 5 would be well represented by Bob in the State Senate." - Congressman Bruce Westerman

David Barton Endorsment

“The ideas that made America great are falling out of fashion in the media and our public institutions. As a result, the Constitution and our founding principles are in peril. Something needs to be done. That is why I am proud to endorse Bob Ballinger for the Arkansas State Senate. Bob not only knows what is at stake for our country (and the world) if we lose our light of liberty but he is a constitutional conservative with a proven record of fighting for our founding principles in the Arkansas legislature." - David Barton, American Historian