Benton County officials received an earful of public comment, some in the form of digital chats, about their developing proposals for new criminal justice facilities.
A 100-minute virtual session Wednesday night was a chaotic mix of rapid-fire chat messages from a group that exceeded 140 at one point, as well as breakout sessions that at least in one instance resulted in angry comments about the “stupidity” and “lying” coming from the Board of Commissioners.
Later this month, the three commissioners are scheduled to make a site decision, although a cascade of chats on the Zoom broadcast called for the board to slow down the process to give the public more time to participate.
The meeting got off to a slow start technically as moderators grappled with a Zoom capacity of 100. Once the capacity issue was addressed the participant list shot into the 140s before dropping slowly to about 110 by the time the Q&A finished.
Attendee Geoff Hollinger, however, referred to the survey as a “nonsense poll” because, he said, “the site factor drives all of the others.”
A pair of breakout sessions followed. The reporter was in a group moderated by Undersheriff Greg Ridler that included Hollinger, Grand Oaks resident Rollie Baxter and Olga Loza, whose home backs up to Reservoir Avenue.
“We live in nature here,” Loza said.
“Something really stinks here,” Baxter said. “The commissioners in their stupidity refuse to reconsider (McFadden) and keep these grossly inadequate sites on the table. Grand Oaks and the other neighborhoods are not going to vote for it. The Board of Commissioners is lying to the citizens of this community."
Board of Commissioners Chair Xan Augerot and Vice-chair Nancy Wyse and Commissioner Pat Malone participated in the Zoom, answered questions during the Q&A and discussed their criteria for the site selection process. Wyse received kudos on the chat scroll for rating "community support" No. 1. Augerot listed the operational efficiency and functionality of the system.