State law requires quorum courts to meet at the start of the year to set meeting time and dates for the coming year. That procedure usually takes only a few minutes, but the meeting Monday evening took longer this year as the justices of the peace considered a request to change the meeting dates.
Prosecuting Attorney Tony Rogers had asked the quorum court in December to consider meeting on a different day of the week. In recent years, the quorum court has met on the third Monday of the month at 5 p.m. Circuit court is in session every Monday, and an increasing case load has caused court to run late sometimes. The extended circuit court sessions could tie up the Berryville courtroom, where the quorum court ordinarily meets. In addition, a deputy prosecuting attorney advises the quorum court, and the DPA could be unavailable to attend the quorum court meeting if circuit court duties interfere.
JP Craig Hicks pointed out an obvious consideration. “Right now, we have this room for Mondays, and we don’t know when we can go back to the courthouse.” The quorum court has met in the Fellowship Hall at Southern Heights Baptist Church recently because the courtroom did not allow for social distancing. Hicks also noted that the quorum court has met on Monday evenings for at least four years. He suggested moving the meeting time back, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., to give the DPA more time to complete circuit court duties.
Rogers said that would make a long day for a DPA. He also raised the specter of a DPA having to choose between circuit court and quorum court responsibilities. Rogers reminded everyone that meetings will return to the courthouse at some point, and conflicts with circuit court will arise.
Other JPs suggested that changing to Tuesday evenings would make a simpler calendar. In recent years, the January and February meetings were delayed a week because of holidays.
JPs considered what meeting time might appeal to the public. They eventually decided to retain the Monday evening meetings by 8-1 margin, with a 6 p.m. start time. The January and February meetings will move back one week because of federal holidays. Jan. 18 is Martin Luther King Day, and that meeting will move to Jan. 25. Presidents’ Day falls on Feb. 15, and that meeting will move to Feb. 22.
JPs were sworn in at this meeting, except for John Howerton, who did not attend. He was scheduled to be sworn in later in the week at the county clerk’s office.
JPs received reconditioned laptop computers at this meeting and will receive packets with meeting information through email rather than a paper packet.
This was also the first meeting in several months for County Judge Sam Barr. At the close of the meeting, he thanked everyone for their help during his health crisis.