Thursday, February 23, 2017

County to Collect Fees From Tickets Written Within City Limits of Warren

The Bradley County Quorum Court met for it's February meeting on the 21st and spent just over two hours conducting business and listening to presentations and public comments.  As compared to the past number of years, this was a long meeting.  There was a number of people present to take part in the presentations or to just listen.

After the normal reports were given and approved, Judge Klay McKinney submitted the judge's report.  He recommended the creation of two new standing committees.  The Judge suggested a jail committee consisting of Justices Bobby Hargrave, Gwen Bullard and Jim Anders.  He then appointed a building committee consisting of Justices Pat Morman, Eddie Parnell and Alton Richard.  The jail committee, according to Judge McKinney, will deal with any issues that revolve around the building of a regional prison/jail, and the building committee will address issues of upgrading or repairing county facilities.  No action was taken by the court.  There was no opposition voiced.

Judge McKinney went on to state that several county vehicles will be sold and grants applied for to purchase new vehicles.

He also informed the court that all tickets issued within the city limits of Warren will be assessed a $20 fee in addition to a $20 fee already assessed by the city.  The fees are authorized by state law, and the funds go to law enforcement.  The additional $20 will go to the county, and he believes it will raise the county $8,000 to $10,000 per year.  In the past, the city fee was charged only for tickets issued within the city limits and the county fee was charged only for tickets issued within the county outside the Warren city limits. According to Judge McKinney, the additional $20 to be collected on tickets within the city limits should have been collected in the past according to law.

The justices then voted to borrow $250,000.00 to purchase additional land for the county park.  A grant will reimburse the county for half the cost.  The Judge stated that he had talked to First State Bank of Warren about securing a loan.  No interest rate was quoted.  The loan will be short term.

John M. Lipton, Chairman of the Southeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority Board was on hand with several Intermodal board members and made a presentation relating to the intermodal industrial park.  He talked about the history of the organization, the status of the park development and the financial condition of the authority.  Bob Milton, bookkeeper for the authority, also presented information as to how the facility has been paid for to date and why the city and counties that created the organization are listed as owing money on the monthly financial report of the intermodal board.  Mr. Lipton asked the quorum court to not withdraw from ownership and to contribute something to the cost, even if over an extended period of time.

Several justices asked questions concerning the purpose of the authority and when some type private industry or business is going to locate in the park.  Questions and comments were made by Justices Anders, Parnell, Bullard, Hargrave, Morman and Sledge.  Most of the discussion concerned the liability of the county and the lack of county money to contribute.  JP Pat Morman stated that he thought the intermodal "will be a big boost to the economy."  Justice Sledge asked Mr. Lipton why he thought the county wanted out ownership of the authority.  Mr. Lipton stated there were rumors to that effect.  He also stated that while private industry has looked at the park, no private entity has agreed to locate there, and he cannot say when anything will happen.   Some of the justices indicated they did not understand what the intermodal was all about.  Judge McKinney stated that Bradley County "operates on a slim margin."  Mr. Lipton told the justices that no one was trying pressure them unduly but they should not "blow it."  There was talk about the original agreement and the ordinance that created the authority.  Mr. Lipton asked State Representative Jeff Wardlaw to address the court about efforts to secure funding for intermodal authorities from the state legislature.  Representative Wardlaw stated that a bill was pending that could provide some one-time funding to three of the seven intermodal parks in Arkansas.  He said the southeast intermodal would be one.  He could not provide a projected dollar amount at this time.  No action was taken by the court.

Melvin Mills then addressed the Quorum Court and talked passionately concerning the need to upgrade fire-fighting equipment for the rural fire departments of the county.  He discussed a recent fire near his home on US 63 South of Warren and the near disaster that threatened several residences in the area.  He voiced his strong thoughts that money is being spent on buying land and for the intermodal, that should go to help better equip the fire departments in the county areas.  He said he was not against the other endeavors but that the priorities need to be reviewed.  There was a good deal of discussion back and forth between Mr. Mills, Judge McKinney and the court.  All agreed the firefighters do a good job and that the rural departments have come a long way.  Mr. Mills stated that just because progress has been made, the county should not cease to upgrade and improve the capabilities of the fire departments because the firemen risk their lives every time they are called out. He said everyone of the justices would be concerned if their property was threatened.

Judge McKinney then opened the floor for public comments.  Mr. Mills asked to speak again and asked point blank if the county owes money to the intermodal.  Mr. Lipton referred to the agreements previously mentioned.  Justice Jimmy Sledge finally said, "that is not what Mr. Mills is asking."  County Attorney Ricky Roper, after having his name brought up relating to the agreement and ordinances, addressed Mr. Lipton and indicated that he was very familiar with the documents.  He then told the court that Bradley County is not liable for any expense except funds appropriated by the quorum court and that appropriations can only be made one year at a time. 

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