The Quorum Court of Fulton County met in regular session on Monday, May 10, and the prospect of new jobs coming to Salem was on the agenda.
"I've been working with a company over the last two months, trying to bring some industry into our area," said Fulton County Judge Charles Willett. "This company makes fast food sandwich wrappers. We got a proposal the other day from them, where they want to buy the old shirt factory building behind Dr. Bozeman's office. The building appraised at $105,857. They've offered us 75 percent of that, which is the least amount we can sell it for. That would be $79,393 and we would keep the first right of rebuy if they ever move out. It will bring 15 to 20 jobs to this area, and not only do they pay a good hourly rate, they pay benefits for their employees. If we agree to sell it to them at this price, we'll be working with SIDC and we'll have to do a little work in the parking lot, fix a drain and do a bit of roof repair. The repairs to the building will run us around $1,000 or less."
The court members discussed the needed repairs and agreed that the potential for new jobs was well worth the cost.
"It's bringing good jobs in a clean environment to work in," said Willett. "They'll start with five employees, move to ten and so on. Probably over a three year period they'll be up to around 20 people."
The court approved a motion to accept the 75 percent value price with a first right of rebuy. Judge Willett was scheduled to present the Offer to the company at a meeting on May 12.
Next on the agenda was Assessor Brad Schaufler, who needed to talk with the court members regarding Freedom of Information or FOI requests.
"I need to create a line item in the Assessor's budget for Freedom of Information requests," said Schaufler. "The Assessor's office has always been where anyone can come in and get parcel cards and all the information that we have in our office. Then along comes computers, software vendors, the Internet and such, and the vendors want this information in bulk. Well, they previously couldn't get it because we couldn't give it to them in bulk. AIS, who is our software provider, wanted a large sum of money to do this, and we couldn't afford it, so the vendors sued us to get the information the way they wanted it. That went to court and it was recently decided that they couldn't win the way it was filed, because they had filed against all of the counties together. What they can now do is refile the suit against each county individually. So, we are now at that point where we're going to have to do something, and AIS has come up with a reasonable amount of money for each request for this bulk information. By bulk, I mean they want a large number of parcel cards, and the information on those cards. So, what I want to do is have a line item in my budget, where I can place money received from an FOI request, and have (County Treasurer) Donna Hall write a check and send it to AIS. Because it is Freedom of Information, I can't charge a lot of money for this, but I can charge these vendors a set fee over what AIS wants to do this."
Court member Jim Bicker asked Schaufler to explain who the vendors are who are asking for the information.
"The vendors can be anybody," said Schaufler. "If you've ever heard of Lexis Nexis, well, somebody like that would do it. Basically, it's a company that buys and sell information. Most of the time it's real estate companies, because they take this information and use it to determine how much real estate is going up or down. But it can be used for anything, because once they get their hands on that, they sell it to other people."
"If you get a call about aluminum siding one night, well that's where it might come from," said County Attorney Dewayne Plumlee. "Right now, if we keep it in electronic medium, which we do, we have to make it available in electronic medium, which we haven't had the capability to do until now. The cost is more reasonable now, and the people who are requesting this information have to pay our actual cost for producing it. What he's asking for is a pass-through account where he can put the money they pay him for the information, and then send that money on to AIS to procure the information."
"I'm going to charge just a little more than it costs us to cover my time, since I have to stay late, put in a back-up tape and burn off the information, then go mail it to AIS," said Schaufler. Some people charge these vendors $400-$500 a request, and I'd like to do that, but it all goes back to Freedom of Information. If you come into my office and ask for 10 parcel cards, I have to provide that to you. I may charge you for the paper, but I can't charge you for the information. By law, it's my understanding that we can only charge what our actual costs are."
"Basically what you are saying is you can recover from these transactions at least something for your time and for the materials and expenditures your office is going to be out, is that correct," asked court member Jack Haney.
"That's correct," said Schaufler. "AIS is going to charge us $215, and I would charge the vendors $250. For just data and no pictures, AIS charges us $175, and I would charge the vendors $210."
"Over time, you may need to adjust this, as you see how much of your actual time is taken up with each request," said Plumlee.
"Are other counties doing this also," asked court member Marjorie Rogers.
"Yes, Izard County just started their process, and there are a bunch more that have been doing this for quite a while," said Schaufler. "Dewayne got a phone call from the vendor's attorney the other day, so I think we need to go ahead and move on this. This is the way business is done now. They want immediate access to information, and when you step into that Internet world, that's what they expect."
The council then made and approved a motion to move $2,000 out of the assessor's automation funds into a new line item for the FOI requests.
The court then moved on to passing a resolution for a grant to purchase generators for the Fulton County Rural Water Association.
"I received a letter from White River Planning and Development the other day, saying that they had completed round one of the process for disaster grant funds from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission," said Willett. "The project has been recommended for the funding, and they will start the application process as soon as the resolution is passed. If we want the grant, it's here. If we don't, then we won't. Rural Water needs it, it's up to us, and we're just saying that it's okay to proceed with the application."
"Arkansas went through five federal disasters in 2008. 71 counties were involved in that, so Congress set aside this money for Arkansas to use," said Darrell Zimmer.
"The money is there, Fulton County Rural Water has been recommended for the funding, and we just need to give them the okay to go get it," said Willett.
After some discussion, the court approved the resolution and the meeting was adjourned.