QC Approves Budget, Rate Increase at Meeting

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Clay County residents will be paying higher fees for trash collection in the new year, as a rate increase was approved by the Quorum Court at Monday night's regular meeting. The court also approved the annual budget for 2017, along with the ordinance to levy the ad valorem tax for the coming fiscal year, and agreed to a contract with Survival Flight to provide their services to county employees during work hours.

With Justice Mike Hill absent from the gathering, the meeting was called to order by Judge Gary Howell at the courthouse in Piggott. During the business portion of the gathering the JPs heard from Alan Shelton, of Shelton Sanitation, concerning a rate increase.

"We were informed about two weeks ago that there would be an increase in the tipping fee at the landfull of two dollars a yard," he explained. "We've had two increases of a dollar a yard in the past three years and we've had to eat them. But, with an increase of four dollars a yard we need a rate increase."

Shelton noted it had been five years since the last increase, in requesting an additional $1.50 per month from rural customers.

"We're raising rates from $18.50 to $20 a month effective the first of the year," he offered. "Dumpster charges will also be going up about 10 percent."

He also noted the price increase will be felt by cities and towns served by the company, as his firm deals with the nearly 50-percent increase in tipping fees in the past several years.

"We really don't have a choice, the landfill is the property of the four counties in the waste management district," Howell noted. "I'm a member of the board, and it's the responsibility and property of Clay, Greene, Randolph and Lawrence counties and the cities in them."

The increase was approved without dissent on a voice vote.

The budget for the coming year was also approved unanimously, with budget committee chair David Cagle sharing the particulars.

"We had about a half million dollars carryover, about the same as last year. We were able to trim-down some of the areas where there was money appropriated, but not spent, and that helped us withstand the 10 percent increase in health care insurance costs," he offered. "We were also able to budget the 50-cent per hour raise for employees, and bring elected officials' pay up to the level required by law."

Cagle indicated the increase in the rate charged to other entities for housing prisoners in the Clay County Detention Center would also show a positive impact, although he hoped to "wean" the county from dependence on the monies.

The pay increase amounts to about $1,266 per employee, including benefits. Cagle also explained the budget does not include an increase in pay for JPs, and noted "we have about $30,000 in un-budgeted funds, and that's about the same as it was last year."

Justice Dennis Haines offered the motion to approve the budget, with a second from justice Jeff Douglas. It was approved on a vote of 8-0.

The court members also approved Ordinance 2016-18, Code 26-36-201, which levies the ad valorem tax for fiscal 2016, to be collected in 2017, on a vote of 8-0.

The ordinance sets personal and real estate property taxes for the coming year, and the distribution of mills. According to county clerk Pat Poole, none of the numbers changed from the previous year.

The justices also approved Ordinance 2016-17 without dissent, which appropriates funds and adjusts the budget for the sheriff's department and county clerk's office. The ordinance applies $14,691 to the budget from funds paid to the department by Traveler's Insurance for the loss of the sheriff's department vehicle in October. It also adjusts the budget for Poole's office, moving $375 from computer software/support into the fund for part-time salaries.

The court also heard from David Hollis and Cindy Buck of Survival Flight, as they offered a presentation on services they would like to provide to the county. Under the agreement presented, the air ambulance service would provide their services to all county employees, during their work time, for $10 per person.

"The employees would also have the option of purchasing a membership for $30 which would provide them 24 hour coverage, along with the members of their families," Hollis offered.

They outlined the particulars of the company, service and equipment and noted the firm is about halfway through a 10-year lease with Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center at Kennett.

"We currently have eight bases of operation, including Kennett, but we hope to be adding another one much closer in the near future," Hollis offered. "But, we can't share any of the details yet."

He noted members are only required to pay what their insurance companies will pay toward the cost of the services, with the remainder written off. He also added that the company has recently added a fixed-wing aircraft, which will provide a wider array of services with greater flexibility.

"I think it would be great for all our employees, especially the sheriff's deputies and road crew workers," Cagle offered. "It would be great to have it for all of them, especially the ones who work in a more dangerous situation and risk being hurt."

The remaining justices concurred, and approved a one-year contract with the company at a rate of $10 per employee. Currently, there are just under 100 on the job with the county. The new benefit will go into effect at the first of the year.

Late in the meeting the justices were informed Duane Dutka had retired from the Clay County Library Board, and appointed his wife, Annette Dutka, to a five-year term. Howell also reported about $62,000 in chat was left over and noted he would be using it on several county roads if grant funding is approved.

Howell also reminded the justices the annual Christmas dinner will be held in conjunction with the regular December meeting, set for Monday, Dec. 19, at the county road shed in Corning.

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