Courthouse tops QC agenda

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 ~ Updated 7:26 PM

CARROLL COUNTY -- The possible formation of a public facilities board to provide water to rural parts of the county may be overshadowed by a discussion about the future of the Western District courthouse.

When the quorum court meets Friday morning at 10 a.m., the justices of the peace will be asked to place a question on the ballot in the November general election to close the courthouse in Eureka Springs.

Justice of the Peace Ron Flake spoke with Carroll County News Friday, and referred to an appearance before the quorum court by State Sen. Randy Laverty in April.

Laverty told the quorum court that if the state supreme court upholds a ruling by Circuit Judge Kent Crow to consolidate the county's two judicial districts, the senator would introduce legislation in the next session of the legislature to once again establish separate districts on each side of the Kings River.

Laverty said he would proceed unless he heard opposition from the quorum court or a majority of Carroll County residents.

"He said he would listen to the people, and I'm just trying to give the people a chance to speak," Flake said. He pointed out the advance time needed to place an item on the ballot, and said the discussion needs to start immediately.

Rural water

The quorum court needed just one more reading to pass an ordinance creating a public facilities board to provide rural water, and that final reading is on the agenda for Friday. A week ago, however, Carroll County News pointed out that a similar ordinance was passed two years ago, and legal opinions suggest that the county cannot create another board with one already in existence.

The ordinance passed in 2008 cannot be amended, because it created an independent entity, but since board members were never approved and no action was taken by the agency, the quorum court has the option of repealing Ordinance 2008-14.

An item to repeal that ordinance is on the agenda, followed by the third reading of a new ordinance to create a public facilities board. The present ordinance has some provisions not included in the 2008 ordinance. After an initial board is appointed, for example, replacement board members will be voted by water customers, rather than by the quorum court. The new ordinance also carries language saying the board will not have the power to condemn private wells or force participation.

The ordinance has enjoyed near-unanimous support on its first two readings, but some opposition to the concept of a public facilities board still remains.

JP Harley Barnum has invited Dennis Sternberg, executive director of the Arkansas Rural Water Association, to attend the meeting.

The ARWA's website describes it as "a nonprofit organization of rural and small publicly owned water and wastewater systems."

Barnum explained to Carroll County News, "There's more than one way to get rural water." Barnum said an autonomous public facilities board may place too much power in the hands of a few people.

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