JPs consider telephone costs, tobacco rules, road standards

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CARROLL COUNTY -- Justices of the Peace considered county tobacco policies, road standards, and a slew of other items during a more than three-hour long meeting last Friday.

However, more than a third of that meeting was devoted to the 2013 budget. In addition to revisiting library funding (see earlier article:, JPs considered several other changes to the proposed budget.

Early on in Friday's discussion, JPs voted to add to the budget a total of $2,000 in funding for the Citizens Corps Council.

The council, which operates under the auspices of the County Office of Emergency Management, oversees the neighborhood watch program and the Community Emergency Response Team.

The council's director had asked JPs for financial assistance last month, after the grant funding previously relied upon dried up.

Also at Friday's meeting, JP Ronald Flake said he was disappointed that only the libraries, the county clerk, the assessor, the public defender, and the Department of Mapping and 911 Coordination had decreased their 2013 budgets in the area of telephone services.

Earlier this summer, the telecommunications consulting firm Insight had said they could save the county $30,000 a year in telephone costs, after performing an analysis of the county's bills.

It was later determined that the authority to enter into a contract with the firm rested with each department head, and most departments subsequently opted not to contract with the company.

Flake had earlier suggested that JPs pressure the departments to act by factoring the savings into their budgets. He raised the same idea on Friday.

"We're in a tight budget year," Flake said. "Our only power over anybody is during budgeting. If we're gonna save money, why don't we force some telephone savings by reducing those telephone budgets?"

Flake said he would not vote to approve a 2013 budget that did not factor in the telephone cost savings promised by Insight.

In response, Mumaugh reminded Flake that JPs had a legal responsibility to pass a budget by the end of the year and that all the unresolved issues could be addressed later "in good will."

"I would hate to see the budget held up about how an office head or a department head pays their phone bills," he said.

"In budget time, we always pass everything on," Flake responded, "and then we never do anything about it. That's been our history as long as I've been here."

The budget was ultimately tabled until next month. By state law, a final budget has to be passed by year's end.

Also Friday, JPs passed two ordinances into law. The first of these, sponsored by Flake, establishes technical standards for the acceptance of streets into the county road system.

The second ordinance tightens tobacco regulations to disallow smoking inside county-owned vehicles and within 25 feet of the entrance to any county building. The prior ordinance had prohibited smoking only inside buildings.

Richie, the sponsor of the amendment, had earlier proposed restricting all tobacco use. However, he softened the language to allow smokeless tobacco at the request of Sheriff Bob Grudek.

In other news, JPs:

* Heard from County Judge Sam Barr about the county's annual legislative audit. Barr will travel to Little Rock on Dec. 13 to address problems with the county inventory, the District Court Clerk disaster recovery plan, and financial reporting at the county airport.

* Approved the county, school, and municipal millage rates for the coming year. None of the regular tax rates were changed. However, the Berryville voluntary cemetery tax -- used to fund cemetery maintenance and improvements -- was increased from 0.6 to 1 mil.

* Passed an ordinance to maintain the salaries of elected officials at their current levels through 2014.

* Tabled an ordinance that would have allocated money for the final pay period of 2012. This year contained 27 pay periods, rather than the usual 26, and JPs had not considered this fact when drafting the 2012 budget, hence the ordinance. The measure was tabled after Flake raised concerns about how the salaries of elected officials would be affected (See earlier article:

* Appropriated $57,782.50 to the Sheriff's Office for the replacement of two vehicles totaled last month in a high-speed chase. The money was the result of an insurance settlement after the accident.

* Appropriated money for overtime at the county jail and the dispatch center. The additional money was drawn from other line items within the existing departmental budgets.

* Appropriated $14,420 received from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Sheriff's Office. The money was payment for sheriff's officers' patrolling of the dam.

* Appointed Rick Shelton to the Lake Forest Acres Subdivision Service District.

Before adjourning, JPs voted to reschedule their next meeting in order to give County staff more time to finalize the 2013 budget. The next meeting of the Quorum Court will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 14 in the County Courthouse, in Berryville.

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