View Full Version : Courthouse closing one day affects tourism

All About Love
11-07-2003, 03:36 PM
I'm most likely preaching to the choir, but consider this an instant replay for those who nodded off during the sermon or was missed by new members to the Eureka Springs Church of Economy. The sermon is about trickle down tourism in Eureka Springs and how it benefits more than just one type business.

The wedding provider business in Eureka Springs has been hard hit by the economy as have the rest of the town's businesses. The exact reason for this is unknown, but suspected as a direct result of the wavering economy. More people are being laid off from their jobs, fewer people can afford to travel for vacations and honeymoons. While weddings are a fairly recent large business for Eureka, they do directly affect almost every other business classification in town through the trickle down economy.

Bride and groom learn of the existence of a paradise for weddings and honeymoons in Eureka Springs, Arkansas where the majority have never visited or not since they were small children. They book their wedding location and minister, then lodging for themselves and many make lodging arrangements for their wedding party, family and guests. Some rent wedding gowns and tuxedos from local rental shops and don't forget they all want what florists, cake bakers, and professional photographers provide to make their day special. Not all weddings include a big reception, but all of them eat in our restaurants as do their guests and family members. They also visit all the shops and galleries, rarely leaving empty-handed. They attend attractions like Passion Play, the music/comedy theaters, night clubs, ride the trolleys and romantic carriage rides. They indulge themselves through spa massages, buy funnel cakes and fudge and visit whatever is going on in town. They also pay for necessities like gasoline and snacks for the trip back home where they tell all their friends and co-workers who weren't fortunate enough to attend the wedding that they have found paradise and its name is Eureka Springs. Anyone who listens knows they will be returning to Eureka in the near future for a vacation and more exploration.

The wedding hasn't just paid the courthouse for a marriage license and the officiant to perform the ceremony. They have included as many of the businesses in town as they could afford in one trip, but they will be back. This is the trickle down effect and if the courthouse closes any days at all, the trickle will be shut off. No license, no wedding, no lodging, no restaurants, no shops, souvenirs, art, jewelry, no rides, no spa experience, no nothing.

The marriage license fee was just recently raised by the state to $58, of which $36 stays in the county. Last year our courthouse issued 5088 marriage licenses and was the first year the number of marriage licenses declined by approximately 120. As of today, November 6, 2003, the courthouse has currently issued 4247 licenses to those honeymooning/vacationing guests and is BEHIND in licenses issued to the tune of 842 with barely one and a half months left in the year to play catch up. This means the courthouse must issue 841 marriage licenses by the end of December to match last year and frankly, that is not going to happen. The vast majority of marriage licenses are issued on Fridays and Saturdays as we happen to be the only courthouse in Arkansas that is open on Saturdays, 9 AM to 1 PM, weather permitting, so when decisions are being discussed about closing the Eureka courthouse on Fridays, you can see where those numbers will be cut in half with less licenses issued to those who come here on Friday to spend the weekend for their wedding and honeymoon. The busiest wedding day of the year, Valentine's Day 2003, Eureka courthouse issued 66 marriage licenses. Valentine's Day was on Friday.

It might be easier to understand when you see that before the marriage license fee was increased this July from $45 to $58 statewide, the county kept $34 of every $45. Now the county keeps $36 of every $58. The State gets the rest. Arkansas is no longer the cheapest area for marriage licenses. Missouri still charges $51.

The county received fees generated in 2002 at $45 per license (the county kept $34 of each $45) multiplied by 5088 licenses is $172,992 and of that sum, approximately ONE HALF ($86,496) was issued on Fridays and Saturdays. Therefore, the county would have received only $43,248 had they been closed every Friday last year. This is only what the county would have lost. Do not forget all the above listed trickle down businesses and what they would have lost.

There are many voters who have rarely stepped foot inside of the courthouse except to vote early. These people are not concerned whether the courthouse employees are cut down from 35 hours per week to only 28 hours per week by closing the courthouse 1 day a week because it does not directly impact their lives, but the town will hear them howl when they do have a need to visit the courthouse and it is closed on that day. Words to the effect of ‘I'm a tax payer' will be heard and the answer will be ‘The courthouse is closed because of budget cuts.' In the meanwhile, will those dedicated courthouse employees be able to survive on just 28 hours as compared to 35 per week? Probably not. According to newspaper accounts, all county employees will have their hours cut back and some will no longer have jobs. It will also be felt by all the above mentioned businesses affected by weddings and by lack of services rendered at their residence if they live outside of the city limits.

The decline of weddings and licenses issued was first felt over a year and a half ago. From the figures above, it is glaringly evident we are on a rapid downward spiral with many related businesses feeling the pinch. Several wedding providers have already gone out of business. Watch for Benton and/or Washington counties to be very wise to find a cash cow by opening their courthouse half day on Saturday. Do not think the weddings will buy their marriage license in one of those counties and then proceed to Eureka for the wedding. If one of those counties is smart enough to see the big revenues generated by issuing marriage licenses on the weekends, so will people who suddenly own chapels and honeymoon destinations. Fayetteville and Rogers have recently built big, wonderful, self-contained hotel resorts, plus more malls, shops and world class restaurants. Perhaps Eureka Springs may be considered a possible side trip, if time permits. The majority of brides and grooms travel here from Oklahoma and they will get to Fayetteville or Bentonville before they reach Eureka an hour away on winding roads.

As a tourist destination, we must get over the ingrained idea that Eureka Springs being special is enough reason for visitors to come here and keep our economy going. We are special and one of the main reasons is because we cater to prospective weddings making it as perfect and easy for them, such as the courthouse being open on the weekends to issue licenses, as a major part of keeping the town alive and special.

11-07-2003, 05:42 PM
Ohhhhhhh Nooooooo......
A WAL MART Wedding Package....

11-07-2003, 07:24 PM
with PLASTIC flowers!

Becky Davis
11-07-2003, 08:19 PM
Will there be a drive by window?

Another Texan
11-07-2003, 08:29 PM
You lost me. Someone is going to plan their entire wedding, place, cake, florist, wedding attire rental, lodgings for guests, etc but they are not going to make sure that they can get a license first? And they are going to call the whole thing off because they have to drive to Berryville?

11-07-2003, 08:34 PM
good post all about love

funny to see marriage put into numbers like this, but you are right...losing friday and saturday will have a big effect on those that marry on the spur...and we all know how much we do depend on that weekend business in the last few years...

All About Love
11-07-2003, 08:35 PM
Sorry to have lost you. You would not believe the number of people getting married here who don't even know they need a valid Arkansas marriage license or any license for that matter. You wouldn't believe all the people that call late Saturday or on Sunday and are irate because the courthouse isn't open on Sundays. I ask them if their courthouse is open on Saturdays or Sundays.

The latest word is the courthouses will be closed on Friday. If someone has suggested Berryville stay open, then it would seem logical they would have to close some other day of the week in order to carry out the plan to reduce the workforce hours down to 28 per week. I haven't heard of Berryville being open on Friday, but then nothing has been set in stone.


Becky Davis
11-07-2003, 08:42 PM
Sorry to have sounded trite. I know this is a very serious issue.
As long as the courthouses are not closed on the same days there shouldn't be much of a problem with getting a license.
But what about court? What days do they hold it?

All About Love
11-07-2003, 08:46 PM
They are not talking about staggering the days closed at both courthouses. At this point, they will both be closed on Fridays which means no court will be scheduled on Fridays. Remember in the recent past when trials ran over from Friday and continued on through Saturday? Sounds like those days are gone, too.

11-07-2003, 09:07 PM
Originally posted by Becky Davis:
Will there be a drive by window?

Speaking of drive by windows - maybe the courthouse could post a clerk at the Bank of Eureka Springs down the street, and you could
drive thru and pick up your license! Maybe
John Cross would even volunteer one of his employee's to sit at the window to further save the County money! What a great idea!!
And John Boy might even make another buck or two in the process.

Another Texan
11-07-2003, 09:07 PM
I hadn't really thought of marriage as an "impulse buy" but since it appears to be then it might be prudent for the businesses that cater to the wedding crowd to address the license requirement and limited availability when people start making their plans. Might save a few heartaches
and/or ruffled feathers. Just a thought.


11-07-2003, 10:46 PM
Mary! What a wonderful idea...I think that is the best way to handle it. Most elopers at least will CALL someone ahead of time for some kind of arrangements. Not all people who get married here buy their license here either; they can get it at any court house in Arkansas. Thanks for the tip, tho.

Kim Yonkee
11-08-2003, 12:14 AM
Well, yes, but ...

If we already know that people are buying most licenses on Fri or Sat, wouldn't it be easier to adjust the days-off courthouse schedule than it would be to educate all wedding providers and license buyers? Seems like the former would be easier to control, and a lot less work.

Would it make sense, in general, to have at least one of our twin county seats open on regular business days? Is there some greater savings by closing everything on Friday than there would be, for example, to close Berryville on Friday and Eureka on Monday?

11-08-2003, 06:22 AM
Originally posted by EurekaRebel:
Speaking of drive by windows - maybe the courthouse could post a clerk at the Bank of Eureka Springs down the street, and you could
drive thru and pick up your license! Maybe
John Cross would even volunteer one of his employee's to sit at the window to further save the County money! What a great idea!!
And John Boy might even make another buck or two in the process.

Rebel, putting it that way I bet you a buck he would, but for no less then 15%!

[This message has been edited by jf501 (edited 11-08-2003).]

11-08-2003, 06:39 AM
The district court (traffic/misdemeanor) is held on Fridays in Eureka Springs. Actually the western district (county) court is only in session one day a month. The sad thing is that this court brings in fine money that will not be there if there is no court. It is very difficult to schedule this court on another day of the week for many reason. Some of those reasons are the judges schedule, scheduling police officers, meetings scheduled in the court room, extended trials in the circuit court, attorney schedules, and many more.
The district court for the city should not be affected if only the county offices are closed. However, the building manager is a part time employee of the county. You don’t suppose he plans to move this court to Berryville. Boy that would be a mess.

I believe that the issuing of marriage licenses is the function of only one employee. In light of the above numbers it seems to me that employee expense is only a fraction of the total income from issuing of licenses.

Mr. Robinson is apparently an intelligent professional person but it appears he is not using those attributes. He appears to be operating under his emotions.

Maybe he knows he probably won’t be reelected and no longer cares about doing theright thing such as John suggests. Actually this may have been the case for some time now.

11-08-2003, 09:19 AM
He has a snowball's chance in hell of getting reelected and he know it.

11-08-2003, 09:50 AM
Well I see all this posting but I don't see anyone saying how they would run the county (over all~not just the courthouse concerns) if they were in office right now! I personally didn't vote for this judge. In the past several years I have only seen the grader "skim" over my road twice and that has been over five years now. So I am not impressed with any of them so far. However, I do not know what the solution to the problem is except wait for voting day and see if another politician presents a plan that is acceptable. Though, what they say and what they do is always a whole different ball game. Thus is politics! Have A Great Day!

[This message has been edited by ArkansawHillbillys (edited 11-08-2003).]