Sheriff's office to collect fines, JPs determine

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A light agenda and a small crowd brought a feeling of summer vacation to Friday's meeting of the Carroll County Quorum Court.

The justices of the peace narrowly approved the second and third readings of an ordinance to designate the Carroll County Sheriff's Office as the agency in charge of collecting fines owed to the county. The ordinance passed, but did not specify an effective date. Sheriff Bob Grudek said the transition period could require a month or more to get computers and software in place.

JP Ron Flake, who initiated this change, suggested letting the sheriff and the circuit clerk "work it out," but JP Gaylon Riggs insisted the ordinance should take effect in 30 days.

In his mid-year report to the quorum court, Grudek discussed how changes in the Arkansas Department of Correction have affected the detention center. Overcrowding in state facilities meant the state would pay $28 per day for each state prisoner held at the detention center. The state will be adding beds, and many state prisoners have received early releases to help make room for more serious offenders.

Those changes have reduced a significant income stream for the detention center. Grudek explained that lower population does not affect staffing, but the detention center saves on some expenses, including utilities. He also said that the situation may change over time, and he explained that some of those released to make space in the state prison system have already found their way back to prison.

JP Larry Swofford said the Boone County Quorum Court had passed a resolution asking the state to increase the $28 per day rate, which it said did not cover its expenses. Flake said the Association of Arkansas Counties had done a statewide study on the issue and found that the actual costs of housing state prisoners in county jails "significantly less than $28."

Courthouse security

In his closing comments, County Judge Sam Barr reported on issues with locks on the courthouse doors. The 911 dispatch office is located in the courthouse, and is staffed around the clock. Barr said he has had several reports of finding the courthouse door unlocked after hours.

"This building is old, but it's ours, and we need to protect it," he said.

Barr said county employees arriving before the courthouse doors open at 8:30 are supposed to press a buzzer, and dispatch staff will remotely open the door. Barr said people have waited without a response, even when they have phoned the dispatchers.

Grudek explained that dispatchers might have a 911 call in progress, and would not interrupt that to open the door. He also objected to making building security the responsibility of the dispatchers. The sheriff also said a "serious morale problem" had developed among dispatchers, when the door to the courthouse kitchen was locked after hours.

Barr said he wanted to put a key lock back on the front door, and JP Lamont Richie said that decision rested squarely with the county judge.

"This is your building," he said, and he told Barr to come back to the table if he needs additional funds for the project.

In other business:

* Riggs reported on a meeting between a committee of the quorum court and the Carroll County Airport Commission. He said the JPs had determined at that meeting that they could not dictate to the commission, and the JPs could not even help mediate in a dispute between the CCAC and the Ozark Flying Club because of "too many hurt feelings on both sides." The committee asked the CCAC for regular financial reports.

* Flake said mapping for a rural water system in the north central part of the county continues, and he hopes for a public meeting within 60 days. The area under consideration includes Arkansas Highways 143 and 221 North, and the roads branching from those highways.

* The JPs unanimously approved Mark Minton for a three-year term on the board of the Western Carroll County Ambulance District.

* Grudek said the garden at the detention center is delivering produce to food banks, and the garden will have a marker to honor Walt Noftsger, maintenance supervisor at the detention center, who began the garden project. The sheriff also reported that drug dog Ringo will retire for medical reasons, but the department will still use the dog for education at schools.

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