Davis v. Waller

Decision Date01 June 1964
Docket NumberNo. 5-3321,5-3321
Citation238 Ark. 300,379 S.W.2d 283
PartiesHoward DAVIS et al., Appellants, v. Forrest WALLER, County Judge, Appellee.
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Catlett & Henderson, Little Rock, for appellants.

Smith, Williams, Friday & Bowen, by Herschel H. Friday and Frank Warden, Jr., Little Rock, for appellee.

JOHNSON, Justice.

This is a taxpayers' suit to enjoin levy of taxes and issuance of bonds to defray the cost of constructing and equipping a county hospital.

On September 18, 1963, appellants Howard Davis and John H. Stamps filed a complaint in White Chancery Court against appellee Forrest Waller, White County Judge. The complaint alleges that the action was brought under Article 16, § 13 of the Arkansas Constitution (the illegal exaction provision); that a called special election was held on September 10, 1963, to determine (1) whether a county hospital should be constructed and equipped at an estimated cost (to the county) of $600,000, and (2) whether a tax should be levied not to exceed two mills to pay bonds to be issued for construction and equipment of the hospital; that a majority of the votes cast approved both construction and tax; that Amendment 17 as amended by Amendment 25, while authorizing a tax for hospital construction, gives no authority for the purchase and installation of hospital equipment; that the plans and specifications of the proposed hospital filed in the office of the county clerk were inadequate, incomplete and unsuitable to formulate a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the proposed hospital; and prayed that the county judge be enjoined from calling the quorum court into session to levy the tax, from presenting such proposal to the quorum court at any regular, special or adjourned term, and from issuing any bonds thereunder; and for a declaratory judgment that Amendment 17 as amended by Amendment 25 includes no authority for issuance of bonds to provide money to purchase equipment for a county hospital. The record reflects the following:

(1) The county court entered an order declaring the necessity for the project (the acquiring a site for and constructing and equipping a county hospital) on August 7, 1963, which order appointed an architect to prepare preliminary plans, specifications and estimates of cost for the proposed project.

(2) Plans, specifications and estimates (hereinafter referred to as plans) were prepared and filed in the office of the county clerk on August 9, 1963, where they remained subject to the inspection of any interested person. A copy of the plans was introduced in evidence.

(3) The county court entered an order on August 10, 1963, approving the plans and calling the special election for September 10, 1963. The election was duly held with the results as follows:

                For construction      4075
                Against construction  2707
                For building tax      3987
                Against building tax  2774
                

Following trial on December 9, 1963, the chancellor found:

(1) The preliminary plans were proper for a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the proposed hospital, and met all the requirements of Amendment 17, and such preliminary plans were properly approved by the county court, and

(2) The submission to the electors of the question of equipping the proposed county hospital and the proposed expenditures therefor out of the proceeds of the special tax are within the authority conferred by Amendment 17.

From the decree dismissing the complaint with prejudice, appellants have prosecuted this appeal.

For reversal appellants urge three points. The first and third points are that Amendment 25 does not authorize the levy of a tax to equip a hospital, and that equipment includes only those items affixed to the building and which are durable. These points questioning the legality of equipping the hospital have been considered very recently by this court in Hollis v. Erwin, 237 Ark. 605, 374 S.W.2d 828, wherein we held that a county is authorized under Amendment 17 to equip a hospital, and explained that:

'A hospital is more than a mere building of four walls and a roof. Webster's Dictionary defines a hospital as: 'An institution or place where sick or injured persons are given medical or surgical care.' A bare and empty building could hardly fit that definition. * * * Certainly the equipping of the hospital is an essential part of its construction. * * * 'There is authority for the equipping and furnishing of buildings authorized by Amendment No. 17.''

Appellants ask us to re-examine this holding and we have carefully noted their argument. It is our considered opinion that Hollis is correct and we here reaffirm it. Appellants also argue that even if equipment may be included, the only type that is proper is durable equipment affixed to the building. We do not agree. The public purpose embodied in Amendment 17 can be accomplished only by a functioning hospital and, therefore, bonds may be issued and the proceeds thereof spent for any type of equipment, furnishings and property necessary for or related to a functioning hospital.

Appellants' second and principal point urged for reversal is that the plans and specifications failed to furnish a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the hospital.

Section 2 of Amendment 17 provides for the preparation of such plans, specifications or estimates of cost as may be proper for a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the contemplated improvement. Section 3 of Amendment 17 vests jurisdiction in the county court to examine and approve such plans, specifications and estimates. Plans were prepared and filed in the office of the county clerk and were subsequently approved by the county court, in accordance with the provisions of Amendment 17. Appellants challenge the sufficiency of the plans to convey a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the proposed hospital. As set out above, appellants invoked the 'illegal exaction' jurisdiction of the chancery court. We have stated that this provision of the Constitution does afford taxpayers injunctive relief in a proper case against arbitrary or unlawful action. Starnes v. Sadler, 237 Ark. 325, 329, 372 S.W.2d 585. However, the provision does not confer jurisdiction upon chancery in all situations and under all circumstances. In this case, the...

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4 cases
  • Keeton v. Barber
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • April 1, 1991
    ...of a hospital. Amendment 13 only permitted bonds to be issued for construction and equipment. The County cites only Davis v. Waller, 238 Ark. 300, 379 S.W.2d 283 (1964). There we held that Amendment 17 permitted, by implication, bond money to be spent on equipping a hospital even though it ......
  • Cowling v. City of Foreman
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • November 23, 1964
    ...uniformly adhered to. Wallace v. Kansas City So. Ry. Co., 169 Ark. 905, 279 S.W. 1.' See also the recent case of Davis v. Waller, County Judge, 238 Ark. 300, 379 S.W.2d 283. Based on the record as a whole we are unable to say the weight of the evidence shows the result of the election would......
  • Baskin v. Baskin
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • June 1, 1964
  • Johnson v. Cummings, 83-198
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • January 23, 1984
    ...for a reasonable understanding of the nature, extent and approximate cost of the contemplated improvement." Davis v. Waller, County Judge, 238 Ark. 300, 379 S.W.2d 283 (1964). Appellants' argument that the county would save money by buying the land now instead of waiting until after an elec......

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