Cherokee Village has until March 31 to pay its portion of central dispatch services or its police and fire departments will lose access to the services. The action would not affect 9-1-1 dispatch services.
At the Jan. 9 Sharp County Quorum Court meeting, the court voted unanimously to give cities until the end of the quarter to pay for the first quarter of services.
"If we give them until the end of January and if they don't pay the full quarter, cut them off," JP Buell Wilkes said in a motion before the court. The motion was later changed to give cities until the end of March to pay for the first quarter of services.
"I'm for letting them do it or not. All the rest of the towns are paying. They've known about this," Wilkes said.
To date, all cities in the county have paid for central dispatch service for the last quarter of 2005 with the exception of Hardy and Cherokee Village. All cities have agreed to contract with the county for 2006 except Cherokee Village. Cherokee Village paid the sheriff's office $606 with a notation that the check is for the city's portion of Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) fees.
County Judge Joe Stidman based the central dispatch funding requests on the funding formula used by the state to disburse turnback funds. The county is responsible for $59,937.31 (46.15 percent). Cherokee Village was asked to pay $28,861.66 (22.43 percent); Cave City $14,163.94 (11.01 percent); Highland $7,412.77 (5.76 percent); Ash Flat $7,330.07 (5.70 percent); Hardy $5,465.60 (4.25 percent); Evening Shade $3,495.88 (2.72 percent); Sidney $2,067.45 (1.61 percent); Williford $473.63 (.37 percent).
"I believe in equality in all instances," JP Bartus Allen said. "If we do not insist Cherokee Village (pay) we'll need to rebate all the cities and not charge them."
Cherokee Village Mayor Ray Maynard attended the meeting with Alderman Kent Viers. Maynard told the court that the $28,861.66 his city has been asked to pay is too much based on the size of the department.
"Cherokee Village is paying almost the equivalent of the total of the rest of them (the other towns)," he said. "In the interest of safety, the ones on the street (police officers) are the ones who are going to suffer."
Stidman said Cherokee Village has six full-time officers, bigger than any other department in the county with the exception of the sheriff's office. In addition, the city was billed on the basis of the population in only Sharp County ( 85 percent), although the city lies in both Sharp and Fulton counties.
"Everyone else in the county has looked at these numbers and don't have a problem with it," JP Darrell Kehrli said. "If Cherokee Village wants to run their own dispatch system that's fine."
Cherokee Village resident Steve Martin said the quorum court consists of two JPs from Cherokee Village, Kehrli and Greg Prenger. He said it should be their responsibility to make sure Cherokee Village has dispatch.
JP Prenger said that since the September mayors' meeting the county has sent packets to Cherokee Village Alderman Russ Stokes and sent a representative to one city council meeting.
Maynard did not have an alternate solution to present to the court and added he was not invited to discuss the issue and had not been provided with the financial numbers by the county.
Stidman said that was untrue. Maynard attended the September meeting with the judge and county mayors to discuss the issue. The only suggestion Maynard provided at that time was placing an additional tax on 9-1-1 to make up the $129,000 shortfall, Stidman said.
He also said he has urged mayors to contact him regarding the issue, which Maynard did not do.
"The 9-1-1 tax does not pay for central dispatch. It is supposed to be for 9-1-1," Stidman said.
While Sharp County officials were discussing the issue with the mayor, Fulton County officials were speaking with Cherokee Village Police Chief Scott Goodwin about the possibility of contracting with them for central dispatch services.
"The first thing I said was, 'I'm not speaking for the mayor or the city,'" Goodwin said. "I was merely there to see how their feelings were towards it. They were very responsive."
Fulton County Judge Charles Willett said he and Maynard began discussing the possibility of contracting for dispatch almost a month ago. At the Jan. 9 quorum court meeting, the court agreed to extend an offer to Cherokee Village for $24,000 a year, Willett said.
"Our quorum court was receptive to it," Willett said. "We are waiting for them to talk to their council and get back to us."
Fulton County charges all cities in the county a portion of the fees for the Arkansas Crime Information Center/National Crime Information Center system that is used for license plate, driver's license, name and date of birth checks and criminal histories. The total of the fees are divided equally among the cities and paid quarterly, Willett said.
"Where we call in to get license plate checks, DL (driver's license) checks will be all that changes, really," Goodwin said.
It may mean more of a change for Fulton County. The central dispatch center currently operates with two part-time and three full-time dispatchers Willet said.
"For us to do the dispatch for Cherokee Village it will cost us a lot more. We'll have to hire a new employee probably," Willett said.
If an emergency occurred in Cherokee Village after they contracted with Fulton County, 9-1-1 would continue to be dispatched through Sharp County, Goodwin said.
"I'd just assume they would get something worked out with Sharp County," Goodwin said.