The Fulton County Quorum Court met in regular session on Monday, April 11 and deputy salaries and vacated roads were the hot topics of the evening.
Fulton County Sheriff Buck Foley presented the Quorum Court members with a proposal to raise the deputy's starting salaries from $18,500 to $21,000.
"By cutting the position of Chief Deputy, who was paid $25,500, I've saved the department $7,500 from what you had in 2010. What I want to propose is to bring everyone's base to $21,000, which would still keep our salaries $1,500 below what you had in 2010."
JP Jim Bicker then asked, "What about the deputy who is currently making $21,000? Will he change?"
Foley replied, "No, he will stay the same, at $21,000. The reason I'm bringing this up is because what I am competing against. Izard County starts at $23,000, Sharp County starts at just over $24,000. The group of guys I already have, we don't have to send any of them to school. And that's what you're going to get into. Sending a deputy to school will cost us close to $22,000 each. I've already been lucky, that our guys are staying for the moment. Not one of ya'll here would come to work for me for $18,500. And I'm offering you a budget that, even bringing them up to $21,000, would keep us under the budget spent in 2010."
JP Jimmy Mahler was concerned that giving the deputies a raise in their base pay would cause other county employees to complain about their salaries.
"We'll have to redo the personnel policy, to reflect this change," said Mahler. "I like what you have here, but if we give them a raise, everyone else is going to want one."
"But it isn't a raise," argued Foley. "I have eliminated that Chief Deputy spot, and I am just reallocating the money to the deputies."
"I agree with you, that this probably needs to be done, but I want to be sure that $7,500 we saved by cutting the Chief Deputy position hasn't already been put somewhere else in the budget," said Bicker. "I think we need to review the entire department budget, to be sure we have that money to allocate."
The court requested that Foley bring the total budget to the next meeting to make sure that the funds are available and, in the meantime, court members agreed to review the personnel policy.
Paula Taylor then approached the court members to discuss reopening a section of Taylor Cemetery Road to improve access to the cemetery.
"I appreciate you letting me express my concerns about the Taylor Cemetery Road," said Taylor. "The road is less than three miles long, and is a county road. But over the last several years, 1.2 miles of it has not been graded and maintained, and has grown up. The existing entrance to Highway 63 is dangerous, due to the two curves. The original road came off of the old Highway 71 and is a safer entrance, but that 1.2 miles has not been maintained. The property owners and the people with family members in the cemetery, are requesting that it be opened up to make it safer for us to visit the cemetery."
"This road has been shut for over ten years," said County Judge Charles Willett. "It's a vacated road right now. A county road has to have a mailbox on it, a school bus stop along it, eminent domain or the land deeded to the county. One of the property owners out there doesn't want that road opened."
"But it shows on the map, that this is a county road. You grade the other end of this," said Taylor.
"It's a vacated road sitting there. I don't know why it was shut down. Now, to open a new road, you have to get a petition with five people to sign it, get a bond up and, as a new road, it has to be 25 foot from the center on both sides. This just passed in the latest legislative session, that anytime you build a new road, not an existing road but a new road, it has to be 25 feet from the center on both sides. I don't know why it was shut down, but at this point it is a vacated road and would have to be re-established as a new road. Estimated cost for this is going to be around $20,000."
Taylor continued to argue that the road only needed a culvert and some dozing, followed by some grading.
Willett restated again that the road is considered vacated, and to re-open it would cost the county $20,000. He suggested that Taylor begin the process of petitioning for a new road, following the guidelines for doing so, beginning with getting a petition signed by five property owners along the proposed road.
Taylor said she would begin the process, but that she still disagreed that the road is "vacated."
Resident Mary Rivera asked to speak to the board regarding an Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program Disaster grant for $422,000 which the county accepted for road resurfacing.
"I feel you don't understand what you are getting us into," said Rivera. "Regulations regulate the citizens and take away our freedoms and our rights. I didn't move here for that. I moved here because I wanted to do what I chose on my property, not what some government agency tells me I can do."
"So, you don't want us to fix roads?" asked Bicker.
Rivera said that was not her meaning, that she is concerned what stipulations might be attached to accepting the grant money."
"Well, someone, some county, is going to get this money," said Willett. "I can tell you right up front that this won't go back to Washington. Someone will get this money, and we need it here. We had a meeting that anyone could attend. We advertised it twice in the paper. That is your chance to come and talk to the people involved in the grant process and get your questions answered."
In other business, Tammy Friel, the COO at Fulton County Hospital, spoke to the Quorum Court about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds which were awarded to the county last year, and how those funds have been implemented so far.
"The energy grant was awarded to the county to be used for the hospital and for the manufacturing facility which will be used by the new business that is coming to town," said Friel. "We were awarded $428,989 to do four projects. One was the Energy Star roof retro fit. We accepted a $232,100 bid from Kirberg Roofing out of Springfield. The second project was to update our appliances to energy star appliances. We accepted quotes from Pioneer Distributing out of Little Rock. One was for $14,454 and the other is $20,301, to equal $34,755. The third project was for an HVAC system and lighting. We are getting quotes on three roof top units and 41 PTAC units. The lighting project was awarded to AWL Electric, with a bid of $13,826, which would update the lighting throughout the hospital and in the manufacturing building. We are also working on getting quotes for the solar water heater project, which was the fourth project we were working on. We are re-working our budget to cover architect fees, and we have spoken with Lee and Associates to be our architect. Out of our total budget, we're estimated at $414,221 currently, so we're doing well, staying within budget."
Willett also informed the court members that the county had received $72,502.21 from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to put towards the Mount Calm Bridge project.
The next meeting of the Fulton County Quorum Court will be Monday, May 9 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend.