During the opening minutes of Tuesday's Phillips County Quorum Court session, it appeared as though business was going to be dispatched in a rather rapid manner. The JPs breezed through three resolutions dealing with appointments to the county's Sewer Facilities Board and an appropriation ordinance amending the County Clerk Automation Fund of 2013.
But things hit a snag when two ordinances dealing with finances came up for discussion. A proposed ordinance authorizing short-term financing for the purchase of five patrol cars for the Sheriff's Department was the first to draw the justices' attention.
The bone of contention was the $95,000 plus interest price tag cited in the ordinance to be paid in three annual installments on each Dec. 15 through 2015. It was noted that the county could obtain a grant for a portion of the purchase price.
Most of the JPs contend that the county does not need to borrow the portion of funding that will eventually be covered by the grant money.
Justice C.L. Walker suggested that the ordinance be amended to finance the amount borrowed, less the grant funding.
County Judge Don Gentry reported that no paperwork has been signed and at this stage there was only a verbal agreement to buy the patrol cars.
The quorum court temporarily moved on to an appropriation ordinance for the Sheriff's Department and Animal Shelter Special Project. It also hit a snag when it reached the discussion stage and the $25,000 price included for the special project.
Some of the JPs wanted to proceed with the vote on the ordinance.
“You're going to run into the same problem that you did with the patrol cars,” stated Gentry. “You can amend the ordinance and take out what you don't want but if you vote them in, the county will have to live up to its obligations.”
No action was taken on either ordinance. The JPs mulled around the possibility of meeting in special session to consider revised ordinances.
In other matters, the quorum court rejected a settlement offer from former county employee James Bell regarding a lawsuit alleging wrongful arrest and termination from his employment with the county. County Attorney Chalk Mitchell presented a letter from Bell's attorney, John I. Houseal III of the Easley and Houseal law firm of Forrest City, to the JPs offering the county one last opportunity to settle the matter out of court.
According to Houseal's letter, Bell would be willing to accept a settlement in the amount of $10,000 plus $1,700 to reimburse him for attorney's fees, bringing the total to 11,700.
The settlement money would have come out of County General Funds.
“I will proceed with whatever action follows,” commented Mitchell.
The Sheriff's Department announced that as of July 15, the office would be collecting fees for accident and incident reports, fingerprints, extra copies of reports and affidavits and files. The charge will be $10 for accident and incident reports as well as fingerprints. Additional copies of reports will cost $5 and 50 cents per page for affidavit and files.
Page 2 of 2 - “I suggest that you talk with your auditor about the handling of the funds generated by these fees,” stated County Treasurer Becky Gattas.
Those appointed to the Sewer Facilities Board included George James, five-year-term; and Calvin Frierson and Jack Hornor to three-year terms each.