The Fulton County Quorum Court met in regular session on Monday, Dec. 13 and an update on the new jail project was tops on the agenda.
County Judge Charles Willett updated the court members, saying that all area cities have entered into the inter-local agreement to donate their portion of the existing sales tax to go towards the payment of the new jail.
"We drafted an agreement and I sent it down to the bond counsel for review," said County Attorney Dewayne Plumlee. "He has a question as to whether or not we need to have the agreement to do what we want, but he's going to figure that out for us and then we can send it on to the Attorney General for review. We're getting time critical, because we need 60 days lead time to hold an election."
Jack Cole addressed the court, asking if the sales tax to be used to pay the debt service on the new jail was about to "sunset" or end.
"When it was first passed, the hospital got half and the county got half," said court member Jim Bicker. "After a certain period, the hospital dropped out and it all went to the county. There is no sunset on it. All we will be asking, hopefully, is to bond the existing tax (towards the jail debt payment), because the USDA does not want to own a jail."
Nancy Cole then addressed the court about questions circulating in the community about the tax. "Is there a plan to educate the public about this before the election, so that they really understand exactly what is happening?" asked Cole. "I've heard several people say, 'Well they say it's not a new tax, but I think it is,' and such."
"As soon as we get all the legalities checked out, we're going to have meetings at all of the Fire Departments to explain to everybody what will be taking place," said Willett. "We'll also be working with the newspaper to explain the vote. This is not a new tax. Every month, this money currently gets distributed to the county and all we'll be asking the voters to do is to allow us to take this jail debt service payment off the top from this existing tax -- to guarantee it will be made -- before the rest of the money is distributed to the county."
MaLinda Gray, Staff Chair from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service next addressed the court to explain the increase in her budget from last year, which during last month's Quorum Court meeting, had been questioned as to whether it reflected raises for those in her department.
"I asked for an increase from last year to this year of $2,800," said Gray. "That's not a raise for anybody. It's to help offset and recoup the costs from the 20% decrease in amount that we lost in 2008. This is just going to help with program costs."
A motion was made to reinstate the money and was unanimously approved by the court.
Nancy Cole then addressed the court again, this time regarding saying the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer at the start of the Quorum Court meetings.
"My purpose in speaking to you this evening, is to request that the court consider the addition of the Pledge of Allegiance and opening prayer to the Quorum Court agenda," said Cole. "As children, I imagine every one of us learned the Pledge of Allegiance in elementary school. We later pledged our allegiance to our flag and our republic at school events, 4-H meetings, government meetings and even church events. It was part of our every day lives. My husband Jack and I have attended a number of quorum court meetings in other counties recently and noted that this was done in those meetings. We would like to see our court do the same."
Cole then presented the results of an informal poll she took of area county courts and municipal governments showing 90 percent polled included the Pledge and 95 percent included a prayer before starting their meetings.
"I did a poll of a number of surrounding county courts and municipal governments, to see what they do at the beginning of each of their meetings," said Cole. "90% polled include the pledge and 95% include a prayer before their meetings."
A motion was then made to begin each Quorum Court meeting with the pledge and a prayer, and was passed unanimously.
Matthew Guyer next addressed the court regarding the lack of animal control in the county.
"There is no animal control within the county at all, besides Cherokee Village and Cherokee Village only serves two towns," said Guyer. "So, people of Viola have no place to go when animals get dropped off in their driveways, or with stray dogs and things like that. What I would like for you to put in mind is perhaps an animal society or humane society for Fulton County."
Court member Marjorie Rogers responded to Guyer. "The reason that Cherokee Village only serves Cherokee Village and Ozark Acres, is because that's where the money comes to support the animal control," said Rogers. "It isn't that they are trying to divide Sharp County from Fulton County. I'm sure, if you would like, I can get you a copy of their rules and regulations."
Rogers went on to suggest that Guyer address the Viola City Council to see if they would be interested in participating in the Cherokee Village Animal Control.
According to the Cherokee Village web site, "If you are put in a position where you can not keep your pet and you live in Cherokee Village or Ozark Acres, for a ($35.00) fee you can surrender your pet to the Animal Control Center."
Rogers agreed to get a copy of the Cherokee Village Animal Control's rules and regulations to Guyer for his review.
In the next order of business, Willett explained that Fulton County has received notification of grant funds for a bridge project from the state mitigation department. "We recommended the Mount Calm Bridge," said Willett. "With this 50-50 grant, it covers our material cost and we provide the labor. We put out a bid for seven tank cars to replace the old bridge out there."
The first bid opened was from The Rail Yard in Stillwell, Okla., with a price for each car of $6,850 for a total of $47,950. With the tax added, the total came out to be $51,786 delivered.
From Salem Pipe and Steel, each car was bid at $6,556 for a total of $45,892. With tax added, the total came out to $49,563.36.
It was mentioned that Salem Pipe and Steel has provided tanks for the county before.
The court voted unanimously to accept the lower bid from Salem Pipe and Steel.
The next scheduled meeting of the Quorum Court will be Monday, Jan. 4, 2011 at 7 p.m., with swearing in of court members at 6:45 p.m.