County shows employee appreciation

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The quorum court approved year-end bonuses for all county employees Monday night. The bonuses were given instead of raises, and Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton said the quorum court’s budget committee did not issue raises, given the uncertainties ahead. “We don’t know what’s coming,” he said. JP Craig Hicks said, “We all thought this would be a great way to let all the employees of Carroll County know how much we appreciate them.” Hicks also noted that the bonuses did not extend to JPs.

Deaton said the budget committee had worked hard to have a draft of the budget ready for this meeting. He said JPs would have time to pass the first reading of the budget ordinance and will need two readings at the December meeting. He said the county has increased revenue compared to the previous year, but the budget was prepared with caution. Overall, the 2021 budget has few significant changes from this year. JP Harrie Farrow thanked committee members for their efforts, and said she appreciated having plenty of time to study the budget in advance of final passage.

Radios repairs and upgrade on the ToDo list

An expenditure of $1,800 will pay for repairs to radio equipment at central dispatch. Technician Drew Wood said the system began shutting down every day at midnight, and it took some detective work to track down the problem, which affected one of 12 drives in the server.

The county’s service contract for the system expired last year.

Wood said the current repair will fix the problem, but he took the opportunity to remind JPs about an aging system that will soon require an expensive upgrade. Estimates have run as high as $5 million, but Wood said he thinks the actual cost could be “much less.” He also said grant money might be available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

JP Larry Swofford, serving as chairman in the absence of County Judge Sam Barr, said JPs did not have an allocation ordinance before them. As a matter of public safety, however, the court could approve the expenditure and follow up with an ordinance next month.

The agenda included an item to allow a JP to miss one meeting per year and still collect pay for that meeting. Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers attended the meeting and said state law already includes that provision.

JPs took a voice vote to endorse the state statute. Rogers also asked JPs to consider changing the meeting day in the coming year. He said Monday is a difficult day for the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney who advises the quorum court. JPs have had to move the meeting elsewhere when circuit court did not finish in time. The quorum court will meet on the first Monday in January to set meeting dates, and the JPs will consider a new meeting day.

Final business

  • JPs authorized $4,750 for roof repair at the Detention Center. Deaton said the building is almost 20 years old, and whoever serves on the facilities committee can expect to see major expenses ahead.
  • Deaton said the county has used 2,700 hours of Covid time. “Some departments are doing great, others not as good,” he said.
  • JP Don McNeely said the personnel committee will develop a nominee to replace Circuit Clerk Ramona Wilson, who plans to retire at the end of the year. The quorum court also has a vacancy to fill, with the resignation of Marty Johnson, but the governor will appoint someone to replace him.
  • An appropriation of $150,000 will replenish the county courthouse fund. JP John Howerton said the fund has been depleted by expenditures of almost $100,000 in the past year. He described that as an unusual level of expense and said the present allocation will ensure that funds are readily available to maintain county buildings.
  • JPs approved the receipt of a grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grant helped to pay for an on-demand printer and two more tablets for elections.
  • With an increase in citations in the past year, and longer court days in district court, JPs authorized an additional part-time position in the Eastern District Court.
  • A plan to replace the wooden façade around the top of the courthouse annex in Berryville was delayed until after the tax collection period.
  • The county will consider buying tablets for JPs to eliminate the paper packets distributed in advance of meetings. Some JPs asked about using their own computers but having uniform devices would simplify some procedures.

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