Tempers flare at meeting

Thursday, July 20, 2006
Heated Words: Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence answers statements by JP Clovis Vest concerning Sheriff's Department and Izard County Detention Facility pay raises. Photo/Price

A comment about salaries by a JP brought a heated response from Sheriff Tate Lawrence at the Izard County Quorum Court meeting July 11.

JP Clovis Vest said the sheriff's office was over budget for 2006 and that the quorum court was not informed of the pay raises. Vest said it looked like there was a "buddy system" in the county law enforcement system. Vest said he would like to see the sheriff's office use military ranking instead.

Lawrence took exception to the comments. "I'm in the guidelines of the budget," Lawrence said. He also said he is not helping out friends or "good ol' boys."

Lawrence said the department is not over budget and is actually at 45 percent of its budget with the year more than half over.

Vest said the quorum court must approve the budgets. "We got employees getting paid $6.50 an hour," he said.

"We pay x-amount of dollars to go to each department," JP James Elbert said. "We told them (the departments) to budget it themselves. He (Lawrence) has the ability to give raises and merit raises as he sees fit."

Elbert said the quorum court appropriates the money to the sheriff's office and Lawrence manages it. Unless the department goes over budget, it is not a problem, he said.

Lawrence told Vest what he thought was at the root of his issue. "You seem to be focused on the female people," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said half the employees who received raises at the sheriff's office and detention facility were female this year.

Lawrence brought up a past conversation he had with Vest concerning a female deputy. "You asked me if she was capable of doing the job," Lawrence said. "You never asked me that about a man."

"I wanted to know if she was trained in self defense," Vest said. He said he did not take issue with the fact she was a female deputy.

"I was not angry, just somewhat disturbed he was making non-factual statements that I was out of budget," Lawrence said later.

Lawrence said the pay increases are given out annually and amounts vary with the length of time an employee has been with the department.

In other business:

The quorum court appropriated $5,000 for a geographic information system.

The system will be made using Environmental Systems Research Institute software.

Lee Kaffenberger of Darnadelle will act in an advisory capacity to set up the system and to assist whenever called.

"He (Kaffenberger) is a consultant for GIS as far as helping build the database of physical addresses," Izard County Assessor Tammy Sanders said. "He will make sure the information is what we need so we can take the next step."

Sanders said the mapping will create points on each property for a parcel address. She said the cities already have this in place but the rural parts of the county do not. "We'll use the information from the cities and combine it with what we are doing," she said.

The purpose of the GIS is to give every place in the county a physical address. Although not an enhanced 9-1-1 system, it will help emergency services, including first responders, emergency medical teams and law enforcement, Kaffenberger said.

JP Kenneth Ballman said having such a map would be a potential lifesaver.

Lawrence said the mapping would benefit the county and pave the way for an enhanced 9-1-1 system. "All mapping and physical addresses would be in place," Lawrence said.

The quorum court appropriated $8,800 to the drug task force. Lawrence said working with the current administration and new DTF agent has been a good arrangement for the county.

The Historical Society of Arkansas appropriated $60,000 to the courthouse to update its heating and cooling system. The county asked for $198,000.

The quorum court tabled action on whether to pull the rest of the money from the general fund. Finley said the county would not be able to apply for another grant until the next fiscal year, leaving the courthouse with the wood heating system it currently uses.

The quorum court tabled action on the funding of Tri-County Recycling until the next quorum court meeting. JP James Elbert, who had missed the previous month's meeting, said he would do some research on the recycling facility and its funding and come back to the quorum court with his findings at the next meeting.

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