A senior member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court on Monday complained that proposed ordinances and resolutions the body is to consider have been coming in too late to be given proper consideration.
Dr. Herman Ginger, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said, “it’s unfair to everyone.”
Quorum Court rules state that proposals to be considered should be turned in by the Wednesday before committees meet. Committees meet on the first Tuesday of each month. The regular monthly meeting is always the second Monday of each month.
The packets are put together by the county judge’s office and city attorney, and the sheriff’s office distributes them to the justices. Jefferson County Judge Booker Clemons and County Attorney Jackie Harris did not address the issue at the meeting.
Ginger was referring to past months where proposed legislation was written or rewritten after it went to committees, or legislation that was not submitted in time for the committee meetings and was introduced for the first time during a regular meeting. This month, several new ordinances had been added to the agenda after the committee meetings, and members of the Quorum Court did not receive their information packets until Friday.
“We’ve had to look at stuff and make decisions within five minutes,” Ginger said. “If we don’t get it in time it will just go on next month’s agenda.”
A request from the Jefferson County Election Commission for $35,000 to cover the remaining costs of the May 22 primary election and the upcoming Pine Bluff Ward 1 alderman position runoff was cut by almost two-thirds Monday because the requested amount wasn’t available.
A copy of the Jefferson County treasurer’s report through May 31 showed that there was $12,408.07 available for appropriation in the County General Fund, which is the account the money would come from. By law, counties can only appropriate 90 percent of their projected revenue.
In a memorandum to the court’s Finance Committee, Election Commission Chairman Mike Adam said that costs associated with the May primaries exceeded projections because of water damage to a building, which required the rental of voting machines and printing, as well as other expenses. He said that most of the costs of the primaries will be reimbursed by the state, which has already made a $32,000 advance payment.
But he warned that it will take approximately $75,000 to pay the costs of the November general election.
Commission Secretary Stuart “Stu” Soffer, who represented the commission at the meeting, said some of the requested money was to pay election workers, while another part was to pay the company that prepares software and prints the ballots for the election.
“Give us what you can,” Soffer said. “I will work with the County Clerk on which bills to pay first.”
Justice of the Peace Reginald Adams asked if something could be done to find the full $35,000, noting that another item on the June agenda dealt with funds the county has received from insurance settlements and grants from the state. Adams wanted to know if it was possible to use some of those funds, but Harris said no.
Harris explained that those funds have already been committed to pay for things like a new roof and ceiling at the county health center and to repair hail damage to vehicles.
Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd proposed giving the Election Commission $12,408, leaving seven cents in the account, but that proposal failed on a three-two Finance Committee vote with Ginger casting the final no. Ginger then proposed giving the commission an even $12,000, leaving the rest to “pay a bill,” and that was adopted.
On another matter, a proposed ordinance transferring $63.992.07 from various line items in the Sheriff’s Office budget was tabled until July for more information.
Ginger noted that the Sheriff’s Office was requesting to transfer $12,000 from the machinery and equipment category to the supply category and an additional approximately $16,000 from the vehicles category to supplies and miscellaneous.
“I want it broken down,” Ginger said. “This broad brush is not acceptable to me.”
The county’s legislative body also approved a memorandum of understanding with Simmons Bank, which will allow Simmons to donate $25,000 to the Sheriff’s Office for furniture and fixtures for the new Lloyd Pete Harrison Jefferson County Sheriff’s building. The facility is nearing completion next to the adult detention center. at the corner of Second Avenue and Convention Center Drive in downtown Pine Bluff.
The memorandum provides that the Sheriff’s Office will comply with any requests from Simmons for publicity relating to the donation and the bank will be able to permanently place their name and logo on the Sheriff’s Office second floor conference room.
Also approved Monday was a resolution allowing the county to apply for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for improvements to the community park at Tucker and a resolution supporting Western Foods participation in the Tax Back program to allow the company to get a refund on sales taxes paid for construction and equipment for the building.
Western Foods leased the former U.S. Sugar plant on Industrial Drive to establish a gluten-free rice flour and “ancient grain milling business.”
They are expected to produce up to 50 jobs when fully operational.