QC Approve Equipment Lease

Thursday, April 21, 2016
The Eastern District courthouse at Piggott.(file photo)

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court approved the lease of six road graders at their regular meeting Monday evening. The justices voted to allow Judge Gary Howell to proceed with the plan, which is expected to save the county thousands of dollars. During the gathering at the courthouse in Corning, court members also approved an ordinance to amend the current budget, passed a resolution concerning the Extension Service and heard a presentation on beautification efforts in Corning.

With eight of the nine JPs in attendance, along with other elected officials and key administrative personnel, Howell called the meeting to order. A short time later Justice Jeff Douglas also arrived.

After dispensing with the usual agenda items, the court heard from a representative of SARA House, of Corning. The non-profit facility deals with disabled persons, and is not affiliated with any other agency or program. It has operated in Corning for about 10 years.

Staff members were on hand to approach the quorum court about the possibility of obtaining funds to help pay for this year's gardening program, which is a key part of the help offered to the disabled. They noted the facility needed about $500 to continue the effort, which would allow them to also acquire a composter, other equipment and plants.

After reviewing the request, the justices indicated they weren't sure they could legally donate county funds to such an effort. And, with County Attorney Mike Trail absent from the gathering, the issue could not be clarified. Instead, the court members, and several of the elected officials, literally "passed the hat" amongst themselves and presented well over the requested $500 to the SARA House staff.

In other business, the court viewed a presentation by Corning teenager Drew Calhoun, proposing a beautification project for the city which would include the courthouse. He illustrated the poor condition of the grounds of the Western District courthouse, and asked the court members if there were any funds availble for the effort.

He also drew comparisons to the Eastern District courthouse, and showed images of the grounds and landscaping. Court members explained the majority of the landscaping around the courthouse in Piggott was carried out by the city, working with the Chamber of Commerce.

The court members suggested that Calhoun begin a fundraising campaign, and gave their approval for improvements to be made around the courthouse. Sheriff Terry Miller also indicated he would be able to provide some manpower for the effort.

In addition to landscaping, Calhoun has also proposed the placement of new signs for the parking spots of elected officials and staff members at the courthouse. He indicated he would be working with the City of Corning in an effort to get grant funds for the project.

The court also reviewed a proposal for the lease of road graders by Michael Burton, of the regional Caterpillar dealer. He noted lease prices are at an all-time low, and offered low-hour used graders at a cost of $864 a month. "This is the lowest price I've ever seen, normally these would run between $1,200 and nearly $2,000 a month," he explained. The price is based on at least four units, and would be for a period of three years. "At that point you can walk away and owe nothing more, or pay fair market value on the remainder of the purchase price," he added.

"We've already spent over $90,000 of our $200,000 maintenance fund on fixing just two of our graders since the first of the year," Howell offered. "I used to be dead set against lease agreements, but with the costs of repairs these days--especially of the electronics, it's a much better deal."

Currently the county has nine graders, and Howell indicated he would be trading-in the ones which are in the worst shape. After discussing the matter further the justices decided to proceed with the lease of six units, allowing the county to dispose of four of the current ones. "We can take the money we get from the others and put that back, then when the three year lease agreement is up you have some options," Howell offered.

The justices voted 9-0 to allow Howell to proceed with finalizing the lease agreement.

Court members also approved Ordinance 2016-07, which appropriated funds and adjusted and amended the 2016 budgets. The measure transfers funds within the budget of the collector and sheriff's department, adjusting several line items.

The ordinance was placed on all three readings and was approved, along with the accompanying emergency clause, on a vote of 9-0.

The court also approved Resolution 2016-02, which pretains to a vacancy in the Clay County Extension Department. Due to the recent retirement of County Agent Andy Vangilder, there is a vacancy. The resolution urges the Extension Service to replace Vangilder with a local resident, as opposed to transferring someone from another county.

"We want someone who is local, knows the farmers and knows the crops we grow around here," noted Justice David Cagle.

The resolution was approved without dissent.

Later in the meeting Howell reported to the court he had contracted for the purchase of a dump truck for the county, to replace an aged 1987 Ford. He noted the truck would be a 2007 Sterling, and would be custom built for the county at a cost of $20,000. Delivery was expected in two to three months.

At the request of Justice Jody Henderson, the court also discussed seeking outside help for technology issues at the county facilities. Recently, audits have identified areas of concern, prompting the discussion. At the urging of County Judge Elect Mike Patterson, county officials will be contacting the state for help with the matter.

Cagle also broached the issue of back taxes on the former Underwood Furniture building in Rector, recently obtained by the Rector Museum. He noted the abstract company had found no taxes were owed when the property changed hands, but it was later determined over $700 was on the books.

"They said they called the courthouse and were told there were no back taxes," he offered. "But, they have no proof they called, and we have no proof that they didn't."

He asked the court members, what, if anything could be done about the matter and if the taxes could be waived in this circumstance. After discussing the issue at length, the JPs noted the abstract company or former owner should be responsible for the funds. Cagle indicated he would seek a legal opinion on the matter from County Attorney Trail as to whether the court could offer any help, or not.

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