JPs Approve Ordinance, Hear Update on Road Work

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Members of the Clay County Quorum Court handled a light agenda at Monday night's regular meeting. During the gathering, held at the courthouse in Piggott, the JPs approved an ordinance appropriating funds and amending the budget, heard an update on county road work and briefly discussed an offer by the litigants in the Peco Road lawsuit. Judge Mike Patterson also reported a meeting is set with FEMA, which should determine the reimbursement for work done during the May floods.

Ordinance 2017-09

After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items the justices turned their attention to Ordinance 2017-09. The ordinance serves to adjust the current budget to reflect a payment of $500, which was a reimbursement on vehicle accident deductible, and an additional $637.92 for monies received from WW Recycling.

The measure also adjusted the budget, shifting funds for the detention center, sheriff's department, road department and those related to the Peco Grant project. Monies left-over from the beaver trapping effort were also appropriated to the road department.

“We've had a lot of extra expenses due to the flooding in May,” Patterson told court members. “But, we had to react to the problems—there were a lot of roads washed out and we had to take care of them.”

He indicated some of the funds would be recouped from FEMA, but noted work continues.

“Our crews did what they had to do to get the roads open and the ditches cleaned-out, and we'll be going back later and trying to straighten them up,” he added. “Hopefully, we'll find out from FEMA soon how much we'll be getting back.”

The justices waived the requirement that the ordinance be read on three separate occasions, and approved it on a vote of 8-0 along with the accompanying emergency clause.

During his update Patterson reported the purchase of three vehicles, and indicated he would be looking to replace the pickup currently used to oversee operations.

“It's got nearly 360,000 miles on it and is pretty worn-out,” he offered. “And, the gas mileage is not that good. I'll be looking for a good four-door truck if I can find one.”

He also noted the need for a side-mount bush hog for the eastern district.

“We've got one over at the Corning shop, and a great operator, and it really makes a difference,” the judge explained. “We've got a good Case tractor at the shop at Piggott and I'd really like to be able to come up with the money for another one.”

Patterson also remarked that the track hoe has been a key tool in response to the flooding, and noted he would also like to have another. “I wish I had another one, and a good operator,” he added.

Later in the meeting he reported on work being done on Peco Road, mostly in response to recent downpours. He also indicated the road department was still shorthanded, adding “we could still use a couple of men, if anyone knows of a grader operator who will work for $9.50 or $10 an hour have them get in touch with me.”

Prior to adjournment Patterson reported to the court members on an offer received from the litigants in the Peco Road case. In a letter from Atty. Beau Wilcox, the complainants, George Baxley and the heirs of the Skaggs family, offered to settle with the county for $15,000 each.

The letter noted the county had settled with another landowner for that amount, and pointed to a loss of income due to loss of crop-producing property. It also pointed to the fact that Baxley's property taxes have increased from $662.76 in 2013 to $843.28 in 2016.

The lawsuit stemmed from the acquisition of land along the county road leading to the new Peco Foods grain facility north of Corning. Based on the appraisals provided by Black River Area Development at the time the landowners were offered $4,000, which was nearly twice the appraised value. The only exception was a landowner with a much-larger area of frontage, which warranted the $15,000 price.

“It is entirely up to you whether you accept the offer or not,” county attorney Mike Trail offered when asked his opinion.

Acting on their rights under laws of imminent domain, Baxley and the Skaggs family chose not to accept the payment and take the matter to court. At the June meeting Wilcox appeared on their behalf, and at that time the justices indicated they felt any additional payment would be unfair to those who settled earlier. This sentiment was echoed at Monday night's meeting.

“I cannot, in good conscience, vote to approve more money for these folks after settling with the other landowners,” Justice Jody Henderson noted.

“We made a fair offer and they chose not to accept it, if they win in court and we have to pay them more then so be it, but I see no reason to accept the offer,” Justice David Cagle added.

Late in the gathering Sheriff Terry Miller offered a brief update on his department, noting he and Judge Patterson would be traveling to Little Rock to learn more about the implementation of the new medical marijuana laws.

Afterward, the court voted to adjourn.

With the exception of Justice John Mansker, all members were in attendance.

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