QC discusses finances

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Finances dominated discussion at Monday night's regular meeting of the Clay County Quorum Court, held at the courthouse in Piggott. During the gathering the JP's adjusted the current budget, passed a resolution setting HUD payment standards for subsidized housing and re-visiting the issue of pay raises for members of the road department. Presiding over the gathering was Justice Dennis Haines, as Judge Gary Howell was out of town and unable to attend.

With only Howell and Justice Ryan Rogers absent, Haines called the meeting to order and dispensed with the consent agenda items. During the review of the minutes of the prior meeting Justice Jim Clifton noted what he felt was a typographical error, and requested a clarification.

The wording in question concerned a discussion on possible raises for members of the road department during the April 21 gathering. During the meeting Howell stated his problem is, "keeping grader operators, they will not stay for the $9 an hour pay," as he sought to raise the base pay in order to retain heavy equipment operators.

The minutes noted, "after much discussion, it was left up to the Judge to take care of his department as he needed."

Clifton questioned the entry, and asked if others remembered the exchange as such and wanted a clarification on whether Howell has the autonomy to grant raises with approval of the JP's.

"I'm not sure if he needs our permission, as long as it's within his budget," Haines said of the situation.

At Clifton's request, the justices agreed on a clarification of the minutes, which stipulated the JP's had not approved any raises for members of the road department.

"It's a big problem, you can't get heavy equipment operators to work for those wages when they can make a lot more on other jobs," Justice David Cagle added. "There have been times when there are graders sitting idle and roads need to be graded, but we didn't have anyone qualified to put in the seat--it's something we're going to have to address."

"I'd like to see everyone get a raise, but I just don't see how we can afford it," Clifton surmised of the situation.

The change in the minutes was passed on a vote of 7-0.

Ordinance 2014-04

Justices considered, and passed, Ordinance 2014-04 during the gathering, placing the matter on all three readings and approving the emergency clause. The ordinance adjusts the budget for 2014, adding funds acquired from the recent gun auction by Sheriff Gerald McClung and the sale of recycled materials.

The measure applied $160 to the road department for food; applied $30,822.61 to the sheriff's department for vehicles, changing the total to $45,822.61; Applied $4,977.20 toward the purchase of computer software; applied $462.00 toward unemployment benefits; applied an additional $4,568.80 to electricity charges and $28,000 to equipment purchases. The ordinance also adjusted several line-items concerning the Emergency Task Force.

The measure, and the emergency clause, passed without dissent.

Resolution 2014-06

The justices also passed Resolution 2014-06, which sets the payment standards for HUD subsidized housing in the county. In approving the voucher payment program the JP's approved the rent for units at--$412 a month for no bedroom, $415 for one-bedroom, $561 for two-bedrooms, $728 for three-bedrooms and $769 for a four-bedroom unit.

The resolution was passed on a vote of 7-0.

Sheriff Gerald McClung also offered a report on his recent gun auction, which netted the county $41,322.61. Of the total amount generated some $10,000 was transferred into County General, while the remainder was earmarked for the sheriff's department.

A portion of those funds were utilized to help pay for a new truck for the department, with the remainder already budgeted. Total cost of the new truck was over $36,000 and the vehicle will replace one of the well-worn units currently in service.

McClung also told the JP's his department had been looking into new sources of revenue, and are investigating how much monies could be generated through their commissary program. He noted several surrounding counties, most notably Greene County, had set-up profitable programs and indicated his department was considering such a move.

The commissary program offers snack and personal items to inmates, with the profits going into the sheriff's department budget.

The justices were also updated on other costs related to the operations of the jail, including the costs of medical care and medications. Currently, the county charges a $20 surcharge for inmates to visit the doctor and $10 for each prescription re-fill. McClung indicated his department was currently looking at ways to cut those costs, and noted he would have more information on the matter in the near future.

The court also heard from Justice Cagle, as he informed the JP's of a request by Peco Foods for an impact study on the county's infrastructure. He indicated the details were still sketchy, but noted company officials had asked for the study as a way of judging how the new project at Corning will impact infrastructure and future growth and development in Clay County.

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