June 10, 2009 Edition

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County hopes to
build justice complex

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Plans for a newly-purchased piece of property were discussed at Monday night's Quorum Court meeting.

Just over six acres were purchased by the county for $60,500 with long-term plans to build a justice complex that would hold a courtroom, circuit clerk's offices, sheriff's department and jail. The land is located in Walnut Ridge between West Free and West Elm Streets near the existing courthouse.

The financing approved would include a $12,000 down payment and $48,500 financed at 5.5 percent interest over the next five years.

Sheriff Dan Ellison said he will move department equipment to the undeveloped lot as soon as possible to free up 15 parking places in the courthouse parking lot.

The decision to purchase the property also puts the plans for renovating the old library building on Main Street on hold indefinitely.

Also on Monday, County Judge Alex Latham rescinded the Quorum Court's recommendation regarding the proposal brought last month by Walnut Ridge resident Jim McMillon about erecting gates on both ends of Lawrence County Road 451 that could be locked when the road is flooded and hazardous.

"After discussion with the road foreman, we have decided instead to place gages that will alert drivers to the depth of the water covering the road," Latham said.

Latham stated that although he took the recommendation of the Quorum Court members into consideration in making this decision, he was concerned about setting a precedent that could not be followed in other places in the county.

Latham said that the gages placed on this road will be a test to determine the effectiveness of the gages. He also said he believes that drivers need to assume responsibility for their own safety by making sound decisions while driving.

McMillon stated that he still believes gates would be safer for residents. He also said that the gates could be placed 40 feet apart to allow for large machinery to pass.

"I have the Black Rock and Walnut Ridge agri departments ready to build the gates for free, APL will dig the holes and others will donate the steel. It won't cost Lawrence County anything," McMillon said.

"I don't believe the gages will keep someone from getting drowned."

McMillon's request that street lamps be placed at the Portia end of the Highway 63 Bypass was also rejected.

In other business:

  • $1,800 was transferred from the communications fund into the equipment fund in the Sheriff's department.

  • the jail fee ordinance was amended to be effective July 1, 2009. This allows for an increased mandatory fine from $5 to $20 for misdemeanor fees in district court.

  • a report on the progress of the communications tower revealed that the weather has held up construction. Once the land is dry enough, the piers and cement will be placed and construction from there will take between one and two weeks. FEMA money is still pending for the tower.

  • a three percent pay increase for county employees was referred to the budget committee to be reviewed before being presented to the court in July.

  • two checks, one for $63,223 and the other for $64,175, were received from FEMA for the county.

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