Hempstead County Quorum Court amends budget, picks library board members

The Hempstead County Quorum Court in its first meeting at the new courthouse.

The April meeting of the Hempstead County Quorum Court was the first to take place in the new courthouse, specifically on the third floor. As County Judge Jerry Crane and the Justices of the Peace got used to their new surroundings, the Court approved an ordinance to amend the county budget, approved four new members of the county library administrative board and heard from a citizen of Fulton about ways to increase civic engagement and concerns about the county’s spending of American Rescue Plan Act funds.

After a prayer from JP Jessie Henry, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the approval of the last meeting’s minutes, the Court heard the reading of an ordinance to amend the county budget for 2022 for the addition of a bailiff who would, as the Court’s agenda reads, “be split between the Sheriff, Judge [Duncan] Culpepper, Judge [Joe] Short and Judge [Tony] Yocum.”

The ordinance included the overall numbers for Hempstead County’s budget. As of the ordinance reading, the county’s general fund amounts to $4,516,547. Its anticipated revenues are $5,059,202.66.

The JPs voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance’s adoption.

Under Other Business, JP James Griffin reported that it was determined that the current four members of the Hempstead County Library’s administrative board had already served the maximum number of years, ten, of their respective terms. Judge Crane nominated four citizens as replacements: Jamie Williams, whose term would end in 2023; Jacob Jones, whose term would end in 2024; Sara Darling, whose term would end in 2025 and Roy Turner, whose term would end in 2026. Jerry Pruden agreed to remain on the board until the end of the year to guide the new members.

The nominations were approved by the board unanimously, except for JP Ed Darling voting present due to the inclusion of Sara Darling as nominee.

The next item was a talk by local activist Sylvia Brown of Fulton who noted that the naming of the four new library board members should have been handled differently. “It's certainly a bit of a surprise to hear that the nominations are already submitted. And so this really ties into my next comment about civic engagement, and being visible and proactive and inclusive, with that civic engagement process, to put a notice in the paper, accepting nominations, being clear about what the expectations would be for the library board,” she said.

She next told the JPs she hoped that the spending of the county’s ARPA funding would include a process that allowed for more input from the community so as to “make sure these dollars reach people where they are.”

She reported that Fulton, using ARPA funds, is “working on its water infrastructure, trying to be holistic rather than patching and repairing.” Patmos, she said, is working on a way that other area water districts can work together to lower costs.

JP Steve Atchley announced that a ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new courthouse would take place Thursday May 19 at 10 a.m. He said the local schools had been asked to send performers for the occasion. He cautioned that campaigning could not be done within 100 feet of the courthouse, since on that day early voting would be taking place in the building.

UA Cooperative Extension Service representative Terrie James announced May 3 as the opening date for the Farmers Market in Hope, with a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m.