The Hempstead County Quorum Court held their April meeting via Zoom. The meeting opened with consideration of a resolution that would partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to remove the weight restriction of 64,000 pounds on state highway 195 between highway 355 and highway 73. It would also clarify how funds including an AEDC grant will go to fund the project. There was a little difficulty in the roll call but finally everyone’s vote was received and the resolution passed.
JP Steve Atchley gave a report on bids from Ideal construction and the McDougle Group on the refurbishing of the old Farmers Bank for use as a courthouse. The contract will be $3,077,230. It passed. JP Cherry Stewart exclaimed “hallelujah!”. JP. Jesse Henry asked if this means work will start in two weeks. Darling said yes with the exception of some minor changes. The companies will probably take a couple of weeks to get their bond.
JP Ed Darling said the budget has been impacted since the COVID-19 scare. He said he had sat down with the treasurer and discussed cuts. He said they have projected a $1.6 million deficit. So far they’ve come up with $1.1 million in non-salary cuts. The budgeted shortfalls expected include $600,000 on roads, $300,000 in solid waste, $400,000 for the jail,and $235,000 in county general. Darling said the jail is only keeping about 20 to 25 prisoners and six jailers have been let go. Darling said the stimulus has resulted in an increase in property tax receipts. Darling said if full-time employees were each cut 8 hours a week that would result in a savings of $110,000 but this will not be enacted right now. The JP’s voted to enact these cuts and to approve the reduction of jobs already cut. The Sheriff addressed some of their cuts. He talked about some school resource officers and how they’ll be out in the summer and also talked about some new deputies that are scheduled to go to the law enforcement academy. He also asked that the JP’s don’t cut his deputies. He said the state has notified him that the county will be getting about $90,000 from back payments for holding state inmates. Sheriff Singleton noted they have a prisoner they have to take to Texarkana for dialysis 3 days a week. JP Jesse Henry asked about sending some of the prisoners home on house arrest. Sheriff Singleton said that’s not possible as everyone in jail is a violent offender. Court was discussed and it was noted it will reconvene in early June. Jesse Henry asked about the Governor communicating with the counties and it was noted he talks to the Governor on a conference call weekly. Judge Jerry Crane lauded the deputies for their help during the storm recently. JP David Clayton reminded everyone all this cutting is hopefully just temporary. The meeting then adjourned. David Clayton suggested they wear masks and meet in the courthouse in May.