''Members aren't out there taking this money home in a haphazard manner. They need to come out in our communities and see how it's being used, for senior centers, fire departments,'' Johnson said. ''It's easy to sit up here with all the trappings and poke fun. But these folks pay taxes, too.''
The Caraway mayor said $50,000 in state money to complete the town's $125,000 rodeo arena will have a positive ripple effect throughout his part of rural northeast Arkansas.
The town has a volunteer fire department and a volunteer ambulance service that's the only ambulance service in the county that serves area residents at no charge, the mayor said.
The services are financed largely through auctions, an Easter egg hunt and other fund-raisers that could be increased and expanded at the new rodeo facility, he said.
He said he considered the general improvement funds the project is set to receive money well spent.
''We're a part of the state, and mostly this area in northeast Arkansas, with the exception of Jonesboro and (Arkansas State University), is kind of neglected,'' South said. ''I feel very strongly that this should be used in the small municipalities. We don't have much income.
''Some people may call it a pork-barrel project. But it's for the people of this community and it's very beneficial and will be put to good use.''