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story.lead_photo.caption The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen SHOWING SUPPORT: Kerry Lockwood Owen, left, and her husband, Ray Owen Jr., campaign Tuesday for the passage of a bond issue financing the construction of a baseball complex to be built at the former Boys & Girls Club of Hot Springs.

City voters overwhelmingly endorsed a bond measure Tuesday financing the construction of a five-field baseball complex at the former Boys & Girls Club of Hot Springs, according to final, unofficial results.

The ballot title authorizing the Hot Springs Board of Directors to issue up to $8.5 million in bonds on behalf of the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission passed 1,126-712, or by more than 22 percentage points. Voters who cast ballots during five days of early voting supported the measure 558-365. Only 8.41 percent of the 21,892 voters registered at addresses inside incorporated Hot Springs participated in the special election.

Ira Roseberry, left, helps voter Jaylene Gonsalves enter her ballot into an electronic counter at the Garland County Election Commission on Tuesday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record
Ira Roseberry, left, helps voter Jaylene Gonsalves enter her ballot into an electronic counter at the Garland County Election Commission on Tuesday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

The ballot title pledged all or a part of the 3 percent hospitality tax levied on prepared food and lodging inside the city to repayment of the bonds. In addition to securing the debt, the tax also supports the operation and maintenance of the Hot Springs Convention Center, advertising and promoting the city and public recreational facilities inside the city.

"A big thank you goes out tonight to the people of Hot Springs who voted to support our kids, our city's economic growth and Hot Springs' continuing commitment to a bright future for all of us," Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, said in a statement released by a spokesman Tuesday night.

"The Advertising and Promotion Commission is especially grateful to the members of the Home Run for Hot Springs Committee who worked so long and so hard to support the construction of a youth baseball complex that will be the best in Arkansas not only for Hot Springs kids to play the game but also to be the host site for tournament play by teams from near and far.

"Our kids are the winners. Our city is the winner. Our future is the winner. Thank you to all who helped and to all who voted for a home run for Hot Springs."

The commission has said the tax proceeds will service the $400,000 to $500,000 annual debt obligation for the project during the 30-year life of the bonds. The indebtedness will account for about 5 percent of the commission's 2019 revenue, which it projected at $8.8 million for 2019. The 3 percent hospitality tax generates most of that revenue.

Electronic poll books showed more than 400 people who had yet to cast ballots had voted in the election when polls opened Tuesday, but Garland County Election Commission Chairman Gene Haley said the glitch didn't disenfranchise anyone.

A poll book with programming data for last November's general election connected to a vote center's Wi-Fi hot spot before it could be reprogrammed for Tuesday's election. It synchronized with other poll books at the 10 vote centers operating Tuesday, causing them to show 422 people who voted last November as having already voted in the special election.

Dorothy Morris fills out her ballot at the Garland County Election Commission on Tuesday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record
Dorothy Morris fills out her ballot at the Garland County Election Commission on Tuesday. - Photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

Haley said voting history information in the poll books showed the voters had voted in November and not in the special election. He said all voters affected by the glitch were able to cast ballots.

"It didn't affect anyone's right to vote," he said. "Nobody was turned away."

The poll books allow voters to cast ballots at any county vote center on election day, regardless of precinct assignment. They're connected to the internet to monitor voter check-ins in real time, preventing voters from casting multiple ballots at different vote centers. The county has used the vote center model since the March 2016 preferential primary and nonpartisan elections.

Haley said the issue first came to light Thursday, when a poll book connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot prior to being programmed for the special election. The November general election programming data it contained loaded onto other poll books, causing them to show 105 people who voted in November as having already cast a ballot during early voting.

One person included in that number checked in at the early voting location at the Garland County Election Commission Building Thursday, and another checked-in Friday. Haley said both were allowed to vote.

He said in future elections poll workers will be instructed to turn off Wi-Fi hot spots before programming poll books.

Local on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: Bond issue scores 'home run' City voters approve baseball complex 1,126-712

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