Chicken Houses, Budget, Jail Spending and More Addressed at Quorum Court

The Hempstead County Quorum Court didn’t had a short agenda in its most recent meeting but there was some big news and looming concerns for some that came up. The court passed an ordinance to amend the 2019 budget and a resolution to partner in making sure the 2020 Census is accurate but the big news items of the meeting include the addition of a School Resource Officer for Spring Hill Schools, the loss of three deputies for the county, a jail construction project, the construction of chicken house just outside and upwind of Hope Fair Park and some upcoming events for kids and families in the county.

Sheriff James Singleton Report

Sheriff Singleton informed the Court that the Spring Hill School Board voted last week to pay $30,000 toward the salary of a deputy to serve on the school campuses as a School Resource Officer. The Sheriff said the $30,000 would cover most of the deputy’s salary with the remaining $11,000 being covered by the Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Singleton told the Quorum Court he is down three deputies. The Sheriff said that one deputy is taking a job as a police officer for HPD, another is taking a job with the Arkansas State Parks and a third deputy was fired. The cause of the deputy’s termination was not discussed.

J.P. Ed Darling asked Sheriff Singleton to discuss a recent construction project at the jail that has caused some questions recently among some in the county. Sheriff Singleton explained that the jail needs room for programs and commissary storage and the money being used in the construction is not coming out of the county budget, but from the profits the jail commissary has made.

Sheriff Singleton said that there are several programs for inmates at the jail including a GED program, AA, NA, anger management and more. Sheriff Singleton said that the only place that they can currently hold the programs is the holding cell which he can only have four people in at one time, with males meeting in the morning and females in the evening. Additionally, Sheriff Singleton said that the jail commissary has grown over the years and they are low on space to store the items available for inmates to purchase.

Sheriff Singleton said the commissary has already profited almost $25,000 this year and profited around $25,900 in 2018. The Sheriff said that he is taking $4,100 out of commissary fund, not the county budget, and using inmate labor to construct a small building for commissary storage and rehabilitation programs rather than trying to get money to buy one premade for more than triple the price.

Sheriff James Singleton informed the Quorum Court that a Fulton Fun Day for kids age 3-13 on October 12 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Fulton Union Church on Ozan St. in Fulton. The Sheriff said that the event is being paid for by Red River Wrecker Service and WMA Enterprises. Sheriff Singleton said that there will be hotdogs, bounce houses and other activities for the kids and deputies will be on hand to interact with the kids and let them check out patrol vehicles and other equipment the department uses.

Another event for children and families, the Sheriff said, is the annual Halloween event that the Hope Police Department and the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office hold every year.

Chicken Houses Near Fair Park

Hempstead County resident Randall Ross spoke to the Quorum Court about a concern he has about chicken houses that are planned to be built on West 16th St., just outside of the city limits. Ross said that he lives in the area and noticed work building a road into a piece of property that lies just outside Hope Fair Park, close to Huckabee Lake. Ross is concerned that the location of the chicken houses will have a negative impact over the coming years due to the stench the wind will carry through the park.

Ross said that the park is the nucleus of many of the events that take place every year in Hope and Hempstead County, is a revenue generator for both the city and the county and is one of the few things that has improved over the years. Ross pointed out that the 144-acre park is central to the annual Watermelon Festival, concerts, events and softball tournaments that draws families from across Arkansas and neighboring states. Ross said that the events that take place in Fair Park generates a lot of tax revenue off the money that visitors spend when they come to Hope for days at a time.

Ross’s concern is that the chicken houses are planned to be built in a location that will be upwind (southwest) of the park during most of the year when activities are going on in the park. He thinks that it will negatively impact the number of people who will travel to the area with their families. Ross said there is no place in the county where you could build chicken houses that would have more of an impact on tourism.

Ross said that the only reason more progress hasn’t been made building the chicken houses is because they ran into soil issues. Ross said the four chicken houses will be under contract by Tyson for 35 years. Ross said that there is nothing legally to prevent the construction and that Tyson said the houses will be 1500 feet outside of the city limits and within legal requirements. Ross asked that those who are concerned about the issue should inform others. One member of the Court said people can reach out to Tyson and express their concern.

Several members of the Quorum Court expressed concern about the plan and discussed issuing a resolution expressing their concern. The Court’s zoning committee has no avenues to stop the construction in the planned location. Hempstead County resident Miss Brown said that the Strategic Plan Taskforce is discussing ideas that could be implemented and provide a way to deal with this kind of issue in the future. Brown said that citizens who are interested in learning more are free to attend at UAHT at 5:30 p.m. on the third Thursday every month.

A resolution about the issue was tabled by the court to give them time to look further into the issue.

Amendment to 2019 County Budget

The Hempstead County Quorum Court passed an amendment to the 2019 budget during its most recent meeting. The Court passed Ordinance 2019-14, sponsored by J.P. Ed Darling, adopting the appropriation of the County General Budget for the county for 2019. The amended budget for the Hempstead County General Budget for 2019 is $3,874,860.88 and anticipated revenue for 2019 is $4,304,280.89.

Resolution to Partner in 2020 Census

The Quorum Court voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2019-4 expressing their commitment to partnering with the US Census Bureau, the State off Arkansas and county stakeholders in supporting the goals of the 2020 Census and to disseminate 2020 Census information. The resolution says that the Quorum Court will encourage all Hempstead County residents to participate in events and initiatives that will raise the overall awareness in the census and increase self-response rates and participation, support census takers, provide Census advocates to speak to county and community organizations and strive to achieve a fair, complete and accurate county of all people within Hempstead County.

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