The Hempstead County Quorum Court meeting was called to order Thursday, April 30 on a Zoom virtual call, abiding to the social distance guidelines set forth by the Governor during these times. The meeting began with prayer and the pledge of allegiance followed by roll call of the members. This was a new experience for the quorum court but the meeting went with no trouble.
The minutes from last meeting were approved by the court and Prosecuting Attorney, Christie McQueen was logged on to the live chat for the reading of the resolution.
Resolution 2020-5 – Tyson Project
McQueen began the discussion of the resolution- to partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to do away with the 64,000 pound weight restriction on Highway 195 going between Highway 355 and Highway 73. The resolution also contained information on how funds such as the AEDC grant will go to fund the project. The resolution was passed by the court and they moved on to the next discussion topic.
Steve Atchley, shared information on the bids from the McDougle Group and Ideal Construction companies about the upcoming renovation of the building that is to be the new courthouse. The contract will be $3,077,230 and bid was passed by the court. There was enthusiasm during the call as they are ready to make this great new feature for the Hope, Arkansas. It was shared that construction would start in approximately 2 weeks with the exception of some possible modifications.
With the budget being affected due to the COVID-19 outbreak they have projected a $1,600,000 shortage, but so far they’ve accumulated $1,100,000 in non-salary pay cuts. The budget shortage will be $600,000 on roads, $235,000 for county general, $300,00 in waste and about $400,000 for the jail. “With the county jail now having 6 less jailers, it is only holding about 20-25 inmates at the moment,” shared Ed Darling. He also shared that if full-time employees were cut at least 8 hours a week, that would save $110,000 but this will not be pushed as a priority for now. Darling also stated that the stimulus has resulted in higher property tax receipts.
The Justices voted to put these cuts in place and jobs that are already cut will be approved for reduction. Sheriff, James Singleton requested that they try not to cut any of his deputies. He shared that some school resource officers won’t be working during the summer so that will help with the budget instead of having to lay off deputies for the time being. He said that the state has contacted his office and informed him that the county will be receiving funds from back payments for holding state inmates equaling about $90,000. Jesse Henry proposed the idea of sending some inmates home on house arrest, but Sheriff Singleton responded that house arrest was not possible due to the fact that the individuals they are still holding in the jail are violent offenders.
The meeting was adjourned by Judge, Jerry Crane and David Clayton suggested that the next Quorum Court meeting happen in the courthouse as usual, and everyone just wear masks.