Fulton County Quorum Court discusses handbooks, roads, transfers for salaries and more at monthly meeting

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Flower beds along the courthouse lawn have been a longtime project of Fulton County Master Gardeners. During the recent quorum court meeting, Judge Jim Kendrick was asked why the flowers were removed from the lawn.
Kim Break

The September meeting of the Fulton County Quorum Court was held Monday, Sept. 9. With a quorum deemed present, Judge Jim Kendrick called the meeting to order.

Judge Kendrick stated the report of Fulton County Road and Bridge Superintendent Milan Novak, needed to be moved up on the agenda so that Novak could leave the meeting and go out and check on a couple of roads. Superintendent Novak stated that the Fulton County Road Department had been able to work on the roads 19 and a half days during 22 work days in the month of August. He then listed the types and amount of work done by category. Weather had played a factor for several days with trees down across roads and in waterways. He stated that complaints had decreased in August, and the department was receiving some compliments. The report was approved.

Then the Judge returned to the regular order of business. The minutes of the previous meeting were presented. The court considered and approved.

Judge Kendrick then discussed the status of the three senior citizens centers in the county. He discussed that a number of changes had gone into effect on July 1. He stated that he had been meeting with people about the centers but was not ready to discuss the information. He said he would discuss the matter further during the October meeting. It appears there was some mention of a possible bid on centers, but that would be addressed at a future time. Judge Kendrick anticipates the centers should be able to operate similar to how they operated previously after things are worked out.

Judge Kendrick addressed the status of the advisory groups he had set up earlier in the year. He said he was combining the six groups into one. Originally, the six groups were to meet an hour before the regular quorum court meeting. He indicated that this wasn’t working out the way it was structured; thus the change. Additionally, he had cancelled the meeting that would have been held before Monday night’s meeting. He went on to announce that there would be no further meetings. He would consult with those he wanted input from on various topics as the need arose. He stated that members of the group come from various vocational areas.

After discussing a couple of topics, Judge Kendrick moved on to an update concerning radio communications upgrades. This was a continuation of a previous discussion concerning how certain sales tax and other funding could be spent. This issue was addressed somewhat later in the meeting. Judge Kendrick talked about the communication problems and “garbled” radio transmission. He stated he didn’t have a full report but would at the next meeting because he currently didn’t have all the details.

Judge Kendrick announced that the Fulton County Personnel Policy had not been revised in a number of years, and a review was being done. It was stated the current policy was from 1989 (with some updates). A draft of a proposed revised personnel policy would be presented at a later date. This topic would be returned to during the public input portion of the meeting.

The judge said Fulton County had received a road map from the State of Arkansas. He stated that it had been commonly reported that Fulton County had around 2,000 miles of county roads. He indicated the map that had been received showed around 700 miles. This will likely be discussed again at a future meeting.

Then, Judge Kendrick returned to the agenda items for a report from Fulton County Veteran Service Officer Ken Crow, who reported on August activity of the office. He reviewed the number of claims, consultations, appeals, etc. the office had handled during the month. He stated that 66 claims had been worked so far during the year. He further stated that he is working on a number of projects including getting veterans medical cards made. He indicated that a lot of veterans don’t currently have cards.

Kendrick then moved back up the agenda and presented the financial report which was considered and approved.

In a report from the Fulton County Office of Emergency Management, it was stated that research had been done on the legal uses of the one-half percent sales tax and Act 833 funds. The representative stated that these funds can only be used for certain purposes which did not include the one currently under discussion (“repeater systems”). He stated he had researched the laws pertaining to this matter, and that was the decision he had reached. There was a somewhat lengthy discussion of this issue. A Court member suggested getting another estimate for the system, and it was stated that it would be done. During the discussion, it was mentioned that the sales tax previously discussed could be used for “facilities” (bills like lights and water), and that “833” funds could be used for equipment like trucks. It appears that Act 833 funds may be used by individual organizations for hand-held radios, towers, etc., but not by a county.

At this point, Judge Kendrick called for public input. A question was brought forward as to how extensive the personnel policies were expected to be. Additionally, it was inquired as to the reasons for the changes (why). It was asked if there were to be a vote tonight (during the meeting). Further it was asked that, since it would impact the various county offices, would other elected county officials be involved in drafting the proposed revisions. It was indicated that there was a “draft” circulating around the courthouse. It was asked if that was a draft created by the County Judge. It was stated that the Arkansas Association of Counties had reviewed the policy some time ago.

Judge Kendrick responded to this bevy of questions. It appeared to remain unclear as to the extent of the involvement of the other elected county officials. As was understood from the Judge’s replies, the “draft” floating around was not his. The basic reason(s) given for the needed updates was that the policy had not been “updated in a while”. This brought a reply from the audience that “sometime back”, the policy had been sent to the State of Arkansas for review, and it was reviewed. This person seemed to see no need to revisit the personnel policy at this time.

Other elected county officials stated a desire to be involved in the review process. The Judge’s reply appeared to be that they could after a “draft” was submitted. At this point, the county officials indicated that they wanted input into the draft (prior to the draft being submitted). To this, Judge Kendrick replied, “No problem.”

Judge Kendrick then returned to a topic of discussion from the August meeting. He indicated that people were resigning from the road department, and replacements needed to be getting experience so they could then take the vacant jobs. The Judge indicated that a road grader operator was leaving at the end of September, and a person needed to be ready to take that position. A discussion ensued to how many people had left the road department, why these part-time funds were needed (money transferred to salary account), why salary money from vacant position(s) couldn’t be used for this purpose, etc.

After this rather lengthy discussion, the Judge asked for a vote on this issue (move money to the road department salary account). Then, a question was posed as to if this would carry over into the “new year”. There appeared to be an answer that this would not be a commitment for next year. At this point, one court member spoke in favor of the transfer, and an audience member rose and spoke of his experience in a similar type activity. Then, the vote was called. The request failed with three voting for the transfer and six voting against.

A question was asked as to when the court could expect the first draft of the budget for next year. The Judge indicated that it would likely be presented at the October meeting.

Next under consideration was a request from the County Collector for funds to be transferred from “The Automation Fund” to part-time salaries to cover needs for the remainder of the year. This passed and later in the meeting an ordinance was submitted and passed.

Representatives Carolyn Lewis and Dennis Reynolds from the Fulton County Fair Board came forward and asked for a resolution supporting an application for a “Rural Services” grant. This grant, if approved, would help build a 40’ by 150’ building to house and show poultry, rabbits, sheep, goats and other animals. The building would have pens on each side and a show area down the middle. The grant application would likely be for $50,000. This request for a resolution was considered and passed.

There was a call then for additional citizens input. Someone came forward and requested the county stop buying “creek gravel” as it didn’t work. Instead, the person went on, the county should invest in chat and other materials.

A question was asked about the next scheduled meeting which falls on Columbus Day. Judge Kendrick stated that it is likely the meeting will be moved.

Someone asked about what happened to the flower beds. The flowers in the beds around the courthouse have been removed. Judge Kendrick stated that he did not have an answer and continued with comments that he was trying to find out and didn’t have all the details. There were additional comments from those in attendance about the removal of the flower beds. The Master Gardeners of Fulton County had installed a number of the beds.

The last order of business was the ordinance authorizing the transfer of funds for the Collector’s Office which passed.

There being no other business to be brought before the court, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 8 p.m.

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

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