January 11, 2016 Edition

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Judge sets 2017 committees

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court held its first meeting in 2017 on Thursday. The New Year brought a new county judge, John Thomison, and three new justices, Bill Powell, Heath Davis and Ron Ingram.

The new administration has also brought several new committees. Thomison said he has spent a lot of time in discussion with different people when forming these committees in an effort to put people where they are needed.

The 911 committee has been reformed. Sheriff Jeff Yates, Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens, Steve Jones and Pat Roby Jr. were selected to serve.

Thomison also appointed justices to three newly formed committees. Alex Latham, Kenny Jones, Tracy Moore and Donald Richey will serve on the road committee; Junior Briner, Latham, Lloyd Clark and Bill Powell were selected for the budget committee; and Clark, Briner, Heath Davis and Ron Ingram were appointed to the courthouse committee.

Justices were encouraged to attend meetings of committees they do not serve on as they feel led. "All of you are involved in everything that has to do with the county," Thomison said to the justices at the meeting.

Committee meetings are also open to the public.

The Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management also saw some changes as Thomison named Chris Jones, Walnut Ridge Fire Department and Imboden Mayor, as director and Wes Lillard, WRFD, as assistant director.

A leaking courthouse roof recently led to a small electrical fire on a light switch in the circuit clerk's office.

Thomison was on the roof with the help of several from the sheriff's office last week assessing the cause of the leak. They filmed the roof and played it back at Thursday night's quorum court meeting for justices to see the issues that have developed.

The courthouse roof is in three sections with the highest section being recently redone with a small pitch and gutters dropping water on the two lower sections, which are holding water.

Water on the roof is then seeping through around the windows. The water is also collecting leaves and other debris blown in, which then clogs the drains on the roof.

Thomison has bids from Lum Augustine to patch the roof to prevent further leaks until the grant is available to redo the lower sections. He is also exploring the possibility to set up a temporary guttering option to run water off the roof until the new roof is on and a permanent solution can be installed.

In other business, a recent audit required a change to the personnel policy regarding vacation time. The policy reads that vacation time will be awarded on the anniversary date of hire, but the audit required it to be changed to calendar year.

County Clerk Tina Stowers had some concerns as vacation time is awarded after one year of employment, but if vacation time resets at the new year then that could result in an employee having a very short window of time to use their vacation.

Using an example of Dec. 4 as a hire date, Stowers said under this change, the employee would be awarded a week's vacation on their first anniversary date, which would reset in January. This leaves only a month to use that time, which could hurt some offices, according to Stowers.

A committee was formed of Stowers, Latham, Ingram and County Tax Collector Stephanie Harris to assess how to adjust the policy.

Harris brought another concern before the court as an error was recently discovered in the assessor's office on the drainage fee of a select parcel of land.

What should have been a $7.50 drainage fee was charging out as $693.15 annually. Harris said this was an error on the county's part, but the money does not stay in the county as it is sent through to the drainage district.

Harris said her research shows that the person most liable for the overpayment is the taxpayer. The county and drainage district are not legally required to pay that money back.

However, the court agreed they would like to do something if possible. The statute of limitations for tax refunds is three years. Harris said the amount was corrected for the 2015 tax year, which would leave the money paid over for the 2013 and 2014 tax years, $1371.30.

The court voted to seek legal council on how to proceed.

Also at the meeting:

Clark announced that the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives at Powhatan is down to one employee. He proposed a resolution be read at the next meeting asking the state to staff the vacant position. Some concerns that the state will not staff or potentially even close the archives exist. Clark explained that if this happens, the agreement is that Lawrence County documents will stay in the county.

justices approved a shooting range ordinance establishing rules for how to use the range, gun safety and security.

Thomison nominated Dr. Blake Perkins to fill his seat on the Hospital Board of Directors

Thomison informed the court that the 2016 dues to the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority had been paid as of Dec. 27. Clark said a new director is set be announced soon and that he has communicated with the authority that the county expects to see some growth in 2017 if it is to remain a member.

justices voted to keep the meeting time as the second Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Clark was appointed to be the Lawrence County delegate at the Association of Counties in March.

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