QC Approves FEMA Flood Plan, Approves Hiring Investigator

Thursday, July 21, 2016
J.P. French, of RAVE Mobile Safety, speaks with members of the Clay County Quorum Court during Monday night's meeting at Piggott.(TD photo/Tim Blair)

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court approved the purchase of a "Panic Button" system for county employees at their regular meeting Monday evening. The justices also gave their approval to create a new position within the sheriff's department, passed a resolution of support for a grant application for the CCSD and approved the county's flood damage prevention program. Changes in the personnel policy concerning sick days were also discussed, and given the green light.

With eight of the nine JPs in attendance the meeting was called to order at the courthouse in Piggott by Judge Gary Howell. Absent from the gathering was Justice Jody Henderson.

After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items, the court heard from J.P. French, director of strategic accounts for the state of Arkansas with the RAVE Mobile Safety Company.

French explained the workings of the RAVE Panic Button system, which uses smart phone apps to notify authorities in the event of an emergency.

He noted each entity, such as the courthouse, would have a "geo-fence" which would define the area covered. This would allow first responders to immediately see the location of the person initiating the call, and react accordingly.

The system was recently put into use by the school districts in the county, and staff at Piggott Schools hosted a training on the program on Monday.

The program is designed for schools, public buildings and businesses alike. It allows for the panic call to be forwarded immediately to 911 dispatch, and allows the notification of other staff members of the issue. Localized alerts are also offered, allowing rapid intervention in the event of a non-911 emergency.

French noted over 485,000 students are protected under the program in Arkansas, involving 252 districts. It's estimated over 38,000 people use the system each day, and over 4,000 private businesses and buildings are also covered.

The proposal for Clay County called for an annual fee of $3,000, which would allow up to 100 users on the system. French noted additional ones could also be added at a cost of $10 each, per year.

Following a lengthy discussion on the merits of the program, the JPs voted to enter into a one year contract with the firm for the service. They noted the cost could be shared between County General and County Road, since the service would also be used by their personnel.

The court also approved Ordinance 2016-14-Code 1300, which approves and establishes the flood damage prevention program for Clay County. The measure was placed on all three readings, title only, and approved along with the accompanying emergency clause on a vote of 8-0.

Court members also approved Resolution 2016-03, which authorizes Sheriff Terry Miller to apply for a GIF grant of $94,883.93. If approved, the grant would be used to upgrade the county's fleet of patrol vehicles.

Miller also reported to the court he was informing the cities of Piggott, Rector and Corning of an increase in the fee for housing prisoners in the detention center. Miller presented the JPs with a copy of the letter sent to the municipalities, which outlines an increase to $30 per day beginning Jan. 1.

In the past the cities have been paying a discounted rate, while the State Department of Corrections has paid the $30 rate. Under the current structure, Piggott, Rector and Corning have been paying $10 a day for male prisoners and $25 a day for females.

In justifying the increase, Miller noted a 2013 study indicated the true cost of housing a prisoner was estimated at $51.34 a day. He noted the figures were based on budget information from 14 counties of varying population and number of prisoners.

The court members also re-visited a matter discussed earlier this year, as Miller had requested an additional position for the Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

At the time of the request the justices wanted to look further into the matter, and at Monday night's meeting they agreed to the proposal.

"If we have the funds we need to do this, then he (Sheriff Miller) can work it into his budget for next year," noted Justice Jim Clifton.

Justice David Cagle also broached the matter of comp time, which has become a problem once again as the department has been under-staffed. "He's going to have to pay it one way or the other, either in comp time or pay for a new position," he offered. "But, this way would help his staff a lot more."

After reviewing the matter, the justices voted by roll call 8-0 to create the new position. The estimated annual salary, including benefits, was set at around $37,000, equating to close to $16,000 for the remainder of the current year.

Miller indicated he planned to transfer a current deputy into the new position, and then advertise for a new-hire to fill the other position.

The court also re-visited the matter of donating sick days to other employees, and handed the matter off to the personnel policy committee. Earlier in the year the JPs discussed allowing employees to donate un-used sick days to others who were battling lengthy illnesses, and had exhausted all their own. The matter came up again recently, as a longtime employee asked to donate days which he would otherwise lose.

The court decided to refer the matter to the committee for preparation of an ordinance to that effect. They also added the stipulations that the requests would be on a case-by-case basis, and would require the court's approval. They also noted the employee must have depleted their days before qualifying, and discussed other guidelines which should be considered. Committee members include Judge Howell, Sheriff Miller, County Clerk Pat Poole and justices Greg Ahrent, Clifton and Cagle.

At the request of Justice Mike Hill, the court also discussed adding automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to the courthouses. Miller noted a unit is already located at the jail, and explained that he was applying for a grant from Firehouse Subs to purchase additional ones for the patrol units. He noted he would add a few more to the grant application, with hopes of locating units in the courthouses, county sheds and other facilities.

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