June 15, 2011 Edition

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Pay for Stay Ordinance
approved for county jail

Leslie L. Ginn
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court approved two proposals that affect the justice system in the county at its meeting Monday night. The first is called the Pay for Stay ordinance, and the second regarded moving the district clerk's office to a new location.

Lawrence County Sherriff Jody Dotson introduced the basics of the Pay for Stay ordinance in May to the Quorum Court members. This ordinance provides the county the ability to charge convicted prisoners for the cost of transportation and housing while in jail.

"Our county is the only county in the whole district that has not yet put the Pay for Stay ordinance into effect," said Dotson. "Money will be deposited into the County General Fund to defray the cost of incarcerating prisoners."

The Pay for Stay ordinance was passed with an emergency clause that puts the ordinance into effect immediately. The cost has been set at $35 per day and will be collected in the same way as fines and court costs.

District court office to move

Judge Larry Hayes presented a plan to establish an office for Joyce Roberts, district court clerk, in a new location. Debbie Downing was the former clerk, and the office was previously located at Downings Tax Service. The new location will be just off Main Street in Walnut Ridge on Northwest Third Street.

"This office will receive a great deal of traffic. There is not an area in the courthouse that will suffice," Hayes said.

Rent on the office space is $350 per month and will be supported by Walnut Ridge paying $116, Hoxie paying $50 and Lawrence County paying the rest, plus utilities. Presently, the county pays $175 for partial office space. If possible, the new office space will also support an office for Judge Hayes, leaving more area open in the courthouse.

After some discussion, court members agreed to authorize County Judge Dale Freeman to pay the extra costs associated with the office change. Money will be appropriated when more definite figures on utility costs are available.

Interest was shown in moving all collection of fines other than circuit court fines to the new office to streamline and improve the process. That possibility will be studied after the new office is set up.

County Road 540 in Shirey Bay, which was washed out by flooding, was discussed as dangerous and in need of major repair to be deemed usable.

"FEMA has met with the county road foreman and is considering the viability of fixing 540 in the bend by the river," said Freeman. "If FEMA will not fund repairs on that road, I do not see how the county can afford it."

The road will be closed in the meantime until FEMA's decision is made.

Emily Hathcock, county grant writer, was at the meeting to discuss grants the county has applied for, which total approximately $332,000. She said that many organizations are also looking for grants to obtain office space. The space above the Lawrence County Meeting Room next to the library was ruled out because it is not handicap accessible.

In other business:

  • Dotson reported that the sheriff's department received a grant for $3,500 for court room security.

  • Justice Junior Briner reported that the Rails to Trails project is presently completing Phase Three this week. Phase Three extends paving to Old Walnut Ridge Road. Phase Four is being bid out and bids will close on July 11. This phase extends paving one mile south from the northern end of the trail, near Contech Mfg., in the airport industrial park.

  • it was reported that the Budget Committee reviewed every office in the county and was pleased to find them all operating within 50 percent of their yearly range. Reviews will continue throughout the remainder of the year.

  • three appointments were approved by the Court. Andrew Johnson was appointed and Tom Sloan reappointed to the Lawrence County Arkansas Public Education Facilities Board (Williams Baptist College). Lila Floyd was also reappointed to the Hospital Board for a term of seven years.

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