De QUEEN, Ark. — Sevier County residents went to the polls Tuesday and approved the two measures that would fund the construction and maintenance of a new 12-bed hospital to be located near De Queen.
"We're going to build us a brand new state-of-the art hospital," Sevier County Judge Greg Ray said when the votes were totaled.
The funding for the hospital will be generated from sale of up to $24,250,000 in bonds and a proposal for a 1% sales tax.
Complete, but unofficial, results showed 1,594 votes for the sales tax and 308 against along with 1,594 votes for the bond issue and 299 against. That's 82% in favor of the sales tax and 84% in favor of the bonds. Voter turnout was 29%.
The proposed location for the new county board-operated hospital is about four miles north of De Queen on U.S. Highway 71. Ray said the purchase of the land is already in the works.
Construction could start in spring 2020, Ray said. The feasibility report for the hospital has projected that the new facility will add an estimated 100 jobs to the community, Ray said.
Before the election, Ray was hopeful the issues would pass.
"We have had six town hall meetings and in all of them we got good responses, good feedback," he said. "I felt good about it but I was surprised at how overwhelming the vote was," he said.
The town hall meetings were held in all parts of the county. Sevier County also includes the towns of Lockesburg, Horatio and Gillham.
The hospital would be a 12-bed facility, and Nabholz Construction Corporation would be the company hired to build the facility. The maximum amount for the bonds to pay for the hospital is set for $24,250,000, which would cover the costs of land, construction, improvements, parking, utilities, equipment and interest on the bonds,
The De Queen Medical Center stopped taking patients in February 2019 and officially closed in May. Ray and Steve Cole, the county Rural Development Agency chair, have worked since then to open a new hospital in the county.
For the first year, the De Queen hospital would partner with the Mena Regional Health System, particularly to help with the emergency room.