Fulton County Quorum Court: Road conditions discussed; committee reports given

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fulton County Quorum Court met Monday, June 10 for its regular monthly meeting.

Once minutes from previous meeting and financial reports (treasurer and clerk) were reviewed and approved, committee reports were given from the five committees which met prior the quorum court meeting.

Ken Crow, Fulton County Veterans Service Officer, spoke on behalf of the veterans services committee. “Veterans’ employment remains near and dear to our (veterans) hearts. The issue is the state of Arkansas, it doesn’t recognize training and experience gained through military service. Arkansas is one of the few states that doesn’t recognize Army training and experience in certain jobs such as law enforcement,” explained Crow.

One thing the committee is working on to combat the issue in Fulton County is a resolution to present to quorum court members. The resolution would support the amendment of Senate Bill 564, which recognizes veterans training.

Crow said another project the committee has discussed is assisting employers in Salem (or Fulton County) who would like to hire a veteran. “By virtue of my position, I have come across and helped a lot of younger veterans now and as they are coming back to Fulton County after service, they need employment.” Crow also said there are tax credits available for employers who hire veterans within the first year of the veteran exiting the military.

Before moving on to address upcoming changes and issues in his office, Crow said the veterans service committee also discussed businesses in the area offering discounts for veterans. “We have 1,154 veterans in Fulton County. The VA is putting $12.8 million a year in veterans’ pockets in Fulton County. By default, many of the veterans are spending their money in Fulton County by virtue of services: electricity, cell phone, things like that...If I was a retailer, I would sure offer a veterans’ discount and sales would increase and give veterans an incentive to spend money in Fulton County.”

Before the next committee report was given, Crow requested a transfer of funds in order to replace the carpet in his office located inside the Federal building. “About 10 years ago, the Federal building experienced a flood. Every office got new flooring with the exception of the Veterans Service Office,” said Crow. New paint has already been applied thanks to the VFW Ladies Auxiliary and students from Salem FCCLA.

Crow said there is $2,500 in the budget he requested to transfer the funds from and to this date (nearly halfway through the year), only $281 has been spent, so approximately $2,200 remains. Quorum court members supported Crow’s request with an approved motion.

The economic development committee discussed a video which has been made available to them for $1,000, which is normally a $4,000 value. They are brainstorming ideas on how to pay for the video and what exactly they would like the video to include; historical context of the area or available commercial spaces.

The committee has also identified 11 grants, some of which are matching. The members of the committee are looking through the various grants and will select the one that interests them the most. The committee has met with Ozarka College President Richard Dawe and discussed the possibility of establishing a satellite campus in Salem. Dr. Dawe has made his grant writing specialist available to the committee.

The public was invited to the former Suzi’s Haircutting House, just behind the library, on Saturday, June 22 where they will be doing some landscaping and repainting the building. The building is being converted into a community outreach center for the youth.

JP Ray Matthew gave an updated from the road and bridge committee. “We met and talked about the fact there was only three counties in the entire state that don’t have a hazard mitigation plan and we are one of them. Mike Harlow and Milan [Novak] will be working the next several weeks trying to put this hazard mitigation plan together,” said Matthew. The goal is to qualify for funds to help with culverts and low water bridges.

The finance committee is working to put together a pie chart of history of income and expenses over the last 10 years to see how things flow from year to year, up or down, expenses and income. “We are finding that hard to track figures and expenses and put all that together. We will keep working on that.

We are thinking from this day forward, some new system needs to be implemented so we could do this in the future and have a new starting point for tracking such things,” said Lori Benedict, committee member.

The committee’s goal is to create a better tracking system to assist in keeping better records.

Fulton County Judge Jim Kendrick gave an updated from the senior citizen committee. He said the committee primarily focused on what is going on with the senior centers. The senior centers of Fulton County (Mammoth Spring, Salem and Viola) have been under contract with White River Medical Center (WRMC) for three years. WRAAA initiates bids for the centers every three years and most recently, WRMC did not bid for the three centers.

“What happens when that occurs, the senior centers automatically revert back to be under the control of WRAAA until such time or if someone presents a bid. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to close the centers, but it could and more than likely have adverse impacts on the senior centers,” said Kendrick. He has been working at looking at other options with the help of State Representative Marsh Davis.

Viola resident Monica Winstead spoke to quorum court members about the condition of her gravel road, and introduced her 10-year-old son. Her son is a stroke survivor and has a blood clotting disorder and seizer disorder. “When he has a seizure, he stops breathing. In February, he had a blood clot. Thank God he was at school and we could get him to medical help. Our road is gone,” said Winstead.

Judge Kendrick thanked her for her comments. The judge was later contacted and asked what was done about Winstead’s road and he said repairs and improvements were made the following day.

Milan Novak, Road and Bridge Improvement Coordinator, would like to eventually add more employees to repair the roads. “Let the guys do what they are doing: maintaining, skimming over potholes putting dust and dirt in them. I want a crew to come behind them. Every pothole has to be dug out. You can’t fill it with concrete. You have to dig it out. Repair crew go around: somebody digging out the hole, somebody prepping the hole, filling the hole, water truck spraying it with the fill we put in it and then we’ve got a completed project. That is my goal.”

Novak said they’ve had equipment issues and had three graders down at one point. The backhoe, which is used daily, went down and he leased one for approximately $1,350 a month. “At the end of the term, we can walk away from it or have them deliver us a new one. Trying to keep equipment up, along with mother nature. It hasn’t been easy. We are doing the best we can.”

Fulton County Clerk Vickie Bishop asked where the funds for the excavator came from the budget. Novak said, “It was where you had $20,000 vehicles and $40,000...” “The county match? So you bought an excavator for $60,000?” asked Bishop. Novak said he purchased the equipment for $125,000 to make payments on for five years.

Bishop asked if he was planning to request a transfer, as purchases can’t be made without approval. “An approval from? I went to the auditors and they told me if I was buying used equipment and trading in a used asset, I wouldn’t need to get quorum court approval. I had to act. That is the only reason I did that,” said Novak.

Next on the agenda were reports from elected officials.

Fulton County Treasurer Barry Abney explained numbers from the law enforcement sales tax would be visible in June. “Little Rock sent an email saying the sales tax use and tax distribution tax is effective April 1, 2019. The new rate will change in the system for the next distribution. It is two months behind as far as the county/city receiving the funds so it will be on the June distribution. The sales tax for April is collected in May then distributed in June. So instead of one month behind, we are two months behind. By June 25, the county will receive the first payment of the tax passed in December.” Abney said he expected to see it in May but didn’t.

An appropriation was made for the circuit judge for automation.

Sheriff Al Roork spoke to quorum court members about the $30,000 deficit in payroll for June. “Everything out there (sheriff’s office/jail) now is governed through CLEST (Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training). They dictate what we have to do...We figured budget based on additional person per shift, unfortunately we didn’t figure the amount of training it was going to take to put that person where we could turn them loose in that position. That is what killed us,” explained Roork.

Once the extra funds from the sales tax is collected, Roork told the court he was certain the issue would be corrected. An appropriation from county general to pay June salaries and when the sales tax check is received later in June, county general funds will be reimbursed. “I think the rest of the year, we won’t have that gross inaccuracy.”

Kendrick explained one solution he has found to buying materials to repair the roads. “The roads are terrible, we are running out of material and it is going to take a lot more material,” said Kendrick as he went on to recap a solution he discussed with auditors, using the Boggy project funds. “It was originally setup with a budget of $308,000 with the understanding if we used it for overlay for the road, that AGFC, then they would do a grant for $250,000 and after we spend our $308,000, they would pay us back $257,000 so out of pocket cost would be a little over $71,700. I talked to the auditors and this was the only place I could find to buy some material and they said those were not restrictive funds and we could use them.”

Other solutions were discussed but not decided on.

Fulton County Quorum Court meets the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Fulton County Courthouse in Salem.

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