QC Approves Ordinances, Discusses Hiring Deputy

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court approved six ordinances at their regular meeting Monday night at Corning. Five of the measures dealt with clarifying, and amending, earlier ordinances passed to allow the county to do business with either an employee, or family member of an employee, while the sixth appropriated funds and amended the current budget. The JPs also gave the green light for the purchase of a new backhoe, discussed adding another deputy to the sheriff's department payroll and heard a report on the recent jail inspection.

With six of the nine justices in attendance the meeting was called to order by Judge Gary Howell. After dispensing with the usual agenda items, the court members turned their attention to the ordinances.

The first to be considered was Ordinance 2016-08, which appropriates $11,121.83 in disaster funds from December of 2015 and an additional $2,000 grant for a drug dog. It also authorizes County Treasurer Carolyn Morrisett to transfer $1,800 from the drug dog funds into County General, as reimbursement, and authorizes the transfer of $2,202.40 from the Tax Collector's Automation Fund into County General and amends the budgets.

The JPs voted to waive the requirement the ordinance be read on three separate occasions, and approved the measure without dissent along with the accompanying emergency clause.

The remaining five ordinances all amended previous ones which allowed for the county to do business with various employees and employee family members. The measures were passed in order to both clarify, and specify, the particulars of each agreement.

Ordinance 2016-09 dealt with the work of Yvonne Settlemoir as both the judge's administrative assistant and part-time janitor of the eastern district courthouse. This measure amended Ordinance 192 of 1997.

The second was Ordinance 2016-10, which allows for the county sheriff's department to do business with Blake Bristow, son-in-law of Treasurer Morrisett. Bristow works for the Jonesboro Police Department, and is an experienced drug dog trainer. He also worked with the sheriff's department, allowing them to purchase an additional drug dog by way of a time-payment program. This measure amended Ordinance 2012-10.

The third was Ordinance 2016-11, which allows the county to do business with Michael Mack, and Mack's Diesel Service, of Piggott. The longtime local business has provided parts, labor and equipment to the county road department for over 40 years. The measure was required due to the fact Melba Mack, wife of the owner, was employed in the county clerk's office. It amended Ordinance 2013-10.

Justices also considered Ordinance 2016-12, which allowed Karen Cagle to be employed as the Clay County Election Coordinator. Cagle, a retired Rector teacher and wife of JP David Cagle, was the only applicant for the job following the resignation of the previous coordinator. The measure amended Ordinance 2015-08.

Finally, Ordinance 2016-13 was considered, which allows a similar agreement concerning part-time janitorial duties as the one approved for Settlemoir. This measure concerns Pam Mullins, who works in the assessor's office at Corning. It also allows for her to serve as the part-time janitor for the western district courthouse, in addition to her regular duties, and clarifies the situation. The measure amended Ordinance 2015-09.

All five of the ordinances were passed on all three readings, title only, along with the accompanying emergency clauses.

The justices also approved the purchase of a new backhoe for the eastern district road department, as requested by Judge Howell. The backhoe is a Case 590, Super N, and is being purchased from Heartland Equipment, of Jonesboro. The new unit will also include additional implements, such as a clam-shell bucket, and carries a price tag of more than $102,000. With a trade-in allowance of $35,000 for the current unit serving the eastern district, the total cost was set at $67,472.20.

The JPs voted 6-0 to allow the purchase.

Sheriff Terry Miller then spoke to the court members, first giving them an update on the recent jail inspection. "There were some areas of concern, including our lack of space and lack of an exercise area, and we also need to address some heating and cooling issues," he told the court. "Our biggest problem is that we're just out of space. We're short on storage space and office space, and it needs to be addressed as we look ahead to the future."

Miller also noted the detention center continues to have problems with the bunk beds, noting there have been several prisoners injured this year from falling off the top bunk. "It's another problem that will need to be addressed in the future," he surmised.

The sheriff also asked the justices to consider allowing him to hire an additional deputy, which would allow the transfer of a current one to the position of criminal investigator.

He noted the department was in need of at least three investigators, but noted the addition of one more would be a great help. "We're starting to get behind, and I don't want to keep the deputies off the road. We didn't get the grant money we hoped to last year, but will try again this year," he explained. "But, I really could use another CID officer now."

Miller noted the entry level job of deputy has a base pay of $25,000, but that figure did not include insurance, retirement and other benefits. Questions also arose concerning the number of employees currently on the payroll, which according to county records is 17.

The JPs asked that the matter be clarified at their next meeting, including the projected cost of hiring an additional deputy for the remainder of the year. Court members will also be reviewing the pertinent budget numbers, and available funds, at that time.

In attendance were justices Dennis Haines, Greg Ahrent, John Mansker, Jim Clifton, Richie Culver and Jeff Douglas. Justices Mike Hill, David Cagle and Jody Henderson were absent.

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