QC Discusses Radios, Approves Ordinance at Meeting

Thursday, May 18, 2017
Nicki Arnold, of Paragould Communications, Inc., illustrates radio coverage in Northeast Arkansas during his presentation to the Clay County Quorum Court Monday night.
TD photo/Tim Blair

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court viewed a presentation on radio systems at their regular meeting Monday night at the courthouse in Piggott. The JPs also approved an ordinance adjusting the sheriff's department budget, and gave the green light to a plan to begin paying county employees bi-weekly, as opposed to monthly. Judge Mike Patterson also provided an update on work related to the recent flooding and storms.

With Justice Jody Henderson absent, the meeting was called to order and the agenda presented. After dispensing with the usual matters the court heard from Nicki Arnold, owner of Paragould Communications, Inc. Arnold was on hand at the request of Sheriff Terry Miller to provide a presentation on a new radio system. Also in attendance was Piggott Police Chief Don Poole and Corning Mayor Rob Young.

“As you know we've had issues for years, and this may be the answer to our problems,” Miller said of the proposition.

Arnold shared information on a trunk system which incorporates a number of repeaters on towers across Northeast Arkansas. He noted the use of a series of repeaters, shared among the various entities, allows for much more range and flexibility.

“We currently have our system in place in Greene County, Craighead County, Lawrence County and portions of Poinsett County,” he explained. “and, we're currently working on a system for Randolph County.”

He shared a visual depiction of the radio coverage which could be provided by placing a single repeater on a high point within the county, as opposed to the system of repeaters with the service his firm offers.

“The system incorporates towers from public entities, private businesses and farmers to provide a network,” he added. “It allows multiple frequencies, and a back-up if you have one of your repeaters go down to something such as a lightning strike.”

One drawback, according to Miller, is the fact that both the City of Piggott and the City of Corning have upgraded their radio systems in the past two years, and the new system would not be compatible. The change would also require replacement of the current system used by the CCSD, which could be retained as an alternate.

When asked about costs related to the project, Arnold noted there were two options for the county—which included either leasing or purchasing new radios. He indicated the fee for being a part of the system ranges from eight to $11 a month, per radio, based on either a 36 or 48 month commitment. Costs of the radios would range from around $575 each for portables and around $600 for mobiles, with one of each required for each of the sheriff's department units.

“Right now we'd be looking at somewhere around 14 or 15 units, and we'd need two for each,” Miller explained.

Based on the company's information, the justices calculated the cost of purchasing the radios and subscribing to the service at between $16,000 and $17,000. On the other hand, the lease agreement would be about half that much, although there would be an additional $75 per radio buyout fee at the end of the commitment.

When asked where the funds would come from for the upgrade, Miller indicated he was just in the planning stages and expected to try to work the project into the budget for 2018.

Ordinance 2017-06

The justices also approved Ordinance 2017-06, waiving the stipulation it be read on three separate occasions. The ordinance serves to correct an earlier budget matter, and disperses funds received by the sheriff's department for the sale of two cars at the Piggott FFA auction and monies from the fingerprint fund. The measure transfers funds to the K-9 dog fund and DARE programs, and adjusts an ordinance passed in December. It was approved, along with the accompanying emergency clause, on a vote of 8-0.

Later in the meeting Miller also addressed the court on other matters pertaining to his department. He requested that the JPs transfer funds to allow him to move a jail employee into a deputy position, noting another deputy has taken on additional responsibilities at the detention center.

“Our new personnel are doing a fantastic job,” he said of the recent changes.

The justices then voted to allow the transfer, retroactive to May 1, without dissent.

He also asked permission to look into the purchase of two surplus Humvees, noting they could be acquired for just $2,500 each. “If we get them they would only be used for special circumstances, such as high-water rescues,” he indicated. “But, I need your permission to proceed with the paperwork.”

“If you've got the money to pay for them, we don't have a problem with that,” Justice David Cagle offered in making the motion to allow him to proceed, which passed 8-0.

Miller also updated the court on his efforts to purchase a new truck for the department, citing the fact that the selection is limited at this time due to the impending arrival of the 2018 models. He indicated only Dodge pickups were available at this time through the state contract bid, and noted he would likely wait until June for the new models to arrive.

County Clerk Pat Poole next addressed the court, and requested they approve a plan to begin paying county employees every two weeks, as opposed to once a month.

“I've talked to a lot of employees, and this would really help many of them out,” she explained. “I've talked it over with my staff members who do payroll, and they have no problem with changing.”

Poole informed the JPs that legislation would be required to make the change to the personnel policy.

“If you will approve making the change we'll have an ordinance drafted for the next meeting, and it would go into effect the end of June,” she added.

The justices then voted 8-0 to allow preparation of the ordinance making the change.

During his update to the court, Patterson informed the justices that the state was offering a 50/50 grant to counties to purchase new voting machines. He indicated Clay County's part would be in excess of $143,000 and suggested the county pass on the opportunity.

“That's a pretty good price tag, and most counties would be looking hard to find that much in their budget,” he offered. “I think we should wait awhile and see if the state can come up with a better way to pay for them.”

He also provided an update on the rehabilitation efforts due to flooding in the western district, applauding Corning Mayor Rob Young for his hard work. “He's done a fantastic job, and has done everything we've asked him,” Patterson said. “We sure appreciate all his hard work.”

Patterson reported work continues at many locations, and water is still across many roads including Highway 328 north of Corning.

He indicated county crews were hauling chat every day in response to wash-outs and damage, an effort which will continue until things return to normal. “We're trying to take care of the worst first, and we appreciate folks being patient with us,” he concluded.

Patterson also discussed the need for a new trackhoe, and indicated he had looked into a number of options. He also reported an additional tractor with bushhog was greatly needed. The judge estimated the cost of a trackhoe at nearly $150,000 while the tractor with bushhog would run $110,000 to $125,000.

The judge also introduced Clay County Extension agents Stewart Runsick and Allison Howell. Runsick, the staff chair, provided an update on the agencies efforts in the county and noted they would be hosting the JPs for a dinner prior to their August meeting to provide their annual report.

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