April 11, 2012 Edition

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Justices reverse decision on funds

Susan Johnson
Contributing Writer

By a vote of 6-3, the Lawrence County Quorum Court overturned last month's decision and elected to fund an additional $5,000 monetary support of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

Justices Nathan Crafton, Donald Richey and Doug Wayland voted against the additional funding, stating it was sending an unfair message to county employees who had gone without a cost of living salary increase.

Speaking on behalf of the Chamber, Brett Cooper stated the area had "seen some good things happen through the Chamber" and took responsibility for not keeping the Court properly updated on how the additional funding had benefited the county.

"We've seen a lot of good things," Cooper said. "We've waited a long time for these improvements and one reason for that is that we've hired a part-time director, L. J. Bryant."

Cooper described Bryant as a "very good organizer" and added the county was "getting full-time talent for part-time pay." The additional funds from the county, according to Cooper, assisted in Bryant's salary, stating this additional funding was necessary to ensure the county continues growing economically.

"One of the things we haven't done, " Cooper said, "is keeping activity reports forthcoming on what the economic developer has been doing."

Cooper assured justices the chamber would develop a "better working relationship with the Court and the County Judge.

"We should have done a better job in communication already," he said. "This (additional funding) helps the county move forward."

In other business the Court approved several cleanup ordinances required to close the 2011 budget.

Justices also heard a report from County Judge Dale Freeman concerning a proposed shooting range. Freeman said the county had applied for a $50,000 grant to construct a new 4-H shooting range; however, according to the bylaws, a shooting range could not be constructed within four miles of any homes. The proposed property site of the shooting range did not meet the guidelines; therefore, construction of the shooting range was in question.

Freeman added his meeting with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission had been canceled but said he was "trying not to lose this grant."

Justices approved a recommendation to join three other groups who had offered to donate $1,000 (total of $4,000) for improvements at the existing range, which will be available for use by 4-H shooting sports members.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson reported he "had inherited" the county jail's overcrowding problem, but since taking office he had reduced his 42-bed jail capacity from 65 inmates to 33.

"We still have the most arrests in the Third Judicial District and run the largest court docket," Dotson said.

Justices approved an ordinance granting overtime pay for deputies, courtesy of a $3,250 underage drinking grant, for extra patrol during prom.

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