Quorum Court Talks Budget, Election Costs

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Budget adjustments were handled by members of the Clay County Quorum Court during Monday night's regular gathering at the courthouse in Piggott. The justices also heard from Sheriff Terry Miller on a proposal to create a criminal investigation division within his department, and were informed the deadline is fast approaching for filing for reimbursement for the 2014 elections.

Justices David Cagle, Jeff Douglas, Richie Culver, Dennis Haines, Greg Ahrent and Jody Henderson were present as the meeting was called to order by Judge Gary Howell.

Election Reimbursement

During the gathering, court members were informed the deadline for filing for reimbursement for the 2014 primary and General Election is March 31, although it was unclear if the proper paperwork has yet been filed.

The JPs were told the filing was the responsibility of former Election Commissioner Joyce Kirby, of Corning, who allowed her contract to expire at the end of 2014. Last year Kirby addressed the members of the court and requested a raise, but was informed no additional funds were available. She had been under contract to the county at a rate of $10,500 per year, plus a $1,000 supply stipend, and charged with conducting elections. This included providing public notice of election time and places, all training, checking of the voting machines and certifying the election among other duties.

As her replacement, Karen Cagle of Rector has been contracted to take over the position. Cagle is currently librarian at Rector High School, but will be retiring at the end of the current school year.

At issue is over $40,000 owed to Clay County by the state and the various municipalities which conducted local primaries and/or elections during 2014.

"That's a lot of money, we can't just let it slip through our hands," Howell said of the situation. He noted a letter has been sent to Kirby asking that she complete the process. He also noted the county had not sent Kirby her check for December, as she was paid in monthly increments for the contract labor.

The justices were assured the matter would be handled prior to the deadline.

Sheriff's Department

Sheriff Terry Miller addressed the court on the possibility of forming a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) within his department, although currently funds are not available for additional staff.

"I'd like for you to consider me adding at least one more slot, I'd like to have three, but I'd settle for one, as a criminal investigator," he explained. "We are the only county around here that doesn't have at least one full time investigator, and it would help with a lot of our problems--especially with the matter of comp time."

Miller noted some grant monies may be made available later this year, and indicated his department would seek those funds with a CID effort in mind. "The availability of an investigator would free up the other deputies to stay out there on the road more, and doing their job. It would not only free them up, but it would save us money in the long run."

The justices agreed in principle with the plan, but reiterated the lack of funding. "We'll just have to wait and see if the grant money is there, then see what we can do," Finance Committee Chair David Cagle observed.

Ordinance 2015-05

Members of the court considered, and approved, Ordinance 2015-05 during the gathering. The ordinance appropriates funds and amends the 2014 budgets, and serves as a "clean-up" measure for the budget process. It adjusted funding for the budgets of all the elected officials and departments. The ordinance, and the accompanying emergency clause, passed without opposition.

Ordinance 2015-06

The justices also approved Ordinance 2015-06, which adjusts and amends the 2015 county budget.

Among the appropriations was a check for $4,969.78 received as reimbursement from the insurance company for the assessor's 2002 Trailblazer. The vehicle was a total loss due to a minor traffic accident during a recent winter storm. The mishap occurred along U.S. 62 on the west edge of Piggott as Assessor Tracy Gurley was leaving her driveway and the vehicle hit an icy patch, and slid into the side ditch. No other vehicles were involved, and Gurley was not injured, but the vehicle was a total loss.

The ordinance also appropriates $10,000 of county general funds.

Among the funding is $2,000 which was received as a grant from the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission to Chalk Bluff. The funds will be used to pay for the gunpowder, hay and straw for the upcoming re-enactment set for early May. The measure also appropriates additional funds to the collector's automation fund, county road department, E-911, drug control fund and DARE fund.

The ordinance also shifts $25,000 to the tax assessor's budget to address the vehicle issue.

The measure, and its emergency clause, was approved on a vote of 6-0.

Ordinance 2015-07

Court members also approved Ordinance 2015-07, which designates collection of fines assessed by the various courts within the county. The issue was brought to light by auditors due to an increase in persons making payments on district court fines on-line, which was not an issue when the legislation was first passed in 1995.

The ordinance defines the matter, noting the count collector's department will be designated to collect fines assessed in Circuit, Chancery and District Court with the exception of on-line payments which are collected by the District Court Clerk's Department. The measure also designates the Circuit Clerk's department to collect payment of fines from Juvenile Courts.

Justices approved the ordinance and emergency clause unanimously.

In other business the court--

* Heard from Howell the recent winter weather had caused major problems on county roads, although he indicated the road crews had been hard at work. "They're in bad shape, but they'd be a lot worse if it wasn't for the help we've got from our farmers," Howell surmised. "They've helped out a lot and we really appreciate it."

* Were informed the majority of landowners along the Peco Road expansion had come to an agreement on easements, but noted at least two may take the matter to court.

* Informed the justices the county would be helping lay tile in a joint effort with the city of Corning to help facilitate the Peco effort, and would be reimbursed.

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