Thursday, April 25, 2013
Justice of the Peace Lamont Richie told the Quorum Court Friday morning he has been confronted by numerous people regarding the proposed SWEPCO power line to be installed through the county. He called it disconcerting to learn that County Judge Sam Barr and mayors in the county knew about the line last autumn, but JPs are just now learning about it.
JP Ron Flake said he is “getting yelled at as well,” and he agreed he wished he had known about this sooner. He added, though, it might not be the judge’s task to tell the court about every meeting he has, but suggested that Barr could have informed the newspapers about it so they could have investigated. He said there is a very aroused populous objecting loudly because the system did not allow public input.
Barr apologized for not informing them, but said he did not expect it to be a big deal.
JP Dan Mumaugh said he had been aware of the coming SWEPCO line because there will be three towers erected on his property. He agreed with the others that the county had minimal input.
CCSO needs additional dispatchers
Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek asked the court to pass an ordinance establishing two new dispatcher positions at the sheriff’s department. He was asking for the City of Berryville to fund one and Green Forest the other.
JP Larry Swofford told the court he sponsored the ordinance because Grudek asked him to and he thought the situation needed discussion, but said this ordinance was not the solution.
Grudek explained when voters approved the half-cent sales tax that funds operation of the jail and central dispatch, they thought they were funding all dispatch operations in the county. He pointed out 911 dispatch is separate from central dispatch, but county officials who are no longer involved made verbal commitments at the time that the sheriff’s office would handle both even though the ballot title said only “central dispatch.”
Grudek said his office also handles other unreimbursed administrative and prisoner duties for local authorities because there was a time it was just simpler to handle things this way. He said he can’t afford to continue providing free services, and what he was asking for is not unreasonable.
JP Gaylon Riggs pointed out it is not just Green Forest and Berryville that use dispatch services, but all citizens in the county.
“If we should step up and pay more to run the sheriff’s office, then we should do it,” Mumaugh added.
Deputy Prosecutor Devon Closser pointed out the ordinance would have no legal effect because the county could not require cities to pay for these positions. She said the county is on the hook for central dispatch according to the vote.
Flake said this comes down to money. He claimed the sheriff could not pay his staff as well as the cities pay theirs. The sheriff is falling further and further behind, and the county is losing trained personnel. Grudek later noted he had just lost one deputy who left for a position that would pay him an additional $20,000 per year, and another deputy is considering a similar offer.
Nevertheless, Flake said this ordinance was not the way to address this, although the court must find a way to get the sheriff more money.
Richie stated one obvious problem was the definition of central dispatch. He said the court brought this problem on itself, and agreed with Grudek that CCSO should not be providing services it is not paid for.
Flake said he agreed with Richie. He said the ballot title said “central dispatch,” not 911. He commented the court must spend the tax the way it was written and voted on, and that is for central dispatch. “The sheriff should look at the services he provides,” he said.
Grudek told the court Baxter, Ark., had a similar situation, and when the sheriff had to cut his services, it affected not only local police but also other city services.
Mumaugh said they had all learned much, but it would not get resolved at that meeting. He suggested Barr, the sheriff and mayors should get together and bring the court a mutually agreed upon solution. Flake agreed with Mumaugh’s sentiment.
Vote on the ordinance was 10-0 against, so it failed.
Committees at last
The court considered an ordinance to form a County Facilities and Properties Committee, a Public Water Development Committee and a Personnel Committee. Richie said he had added the Personnel Committee because of comments at the previous meeting.
Flake spoke up for eventually adding a Library Committee because there are issues on the horizon with the Berryville Library; in particular, the court needs to be aware of. He said there would be pressure to change the way the court disburses library money and the court needs to be educated.
He also advocated for an Airport Committee, and said he hoped there would be an ordinance soon setting up those committees.
Richie said there is already a Library Board and an Airport Commission, and he did not want to tread on them. He said the court should consider recommendations from those bodies.
JP John Reeve said he had been to Airport Commission meetings to stay informed, and JPs could do the same with the Library Board.
In the end, the vote was unanimous to pass the ordinance for the first three committees.
The court voted to appropriate $76,877.11 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency toward the Road and Bridge Disaster Fund. This money covers damages in the county from previous years’ weather events.
Next meeting will be Friday, May 17, at 10 a.m.
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