Leader Blues

Monday, August 20, 2007

TOP STORY >>Special school plans to upgrade

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

The Lonoke Exception School plans about $2.2 million in expansions in Cabot and Lonoke and asked the Quorum Court Thursday night to create a public facilities board through which it could borrow money more economically.

School director Janie Sexton, said banks would only lend her money at relatively high interest rates and for only five years, with a huge balloon payment and uncertain interest rates at the end of that term.

Quorum Court members seemed supportive of the project, but want to study the powers and authority of a public facilities board.

Justice of the Peace Mark Edwards, who had read the public facilities law, found that it could have the power to take land by eminent domain. No county money would be involved, but the quorum court would have to authorize formation of such a board, define its powers and could reserve for itself the power to approve future bond applications.

Sexton said a new Cabot facility would accommodate 90 clients and allow conversion of the existing building or 30 adult clients. It also would have a kitchen so that meals would no longer have to be transported each day from the Lonoke facility.
Expansion would also allow the Lonoke facility to serve more clients.

The court also heard a proposal from the Johanson Group to study the countyís employees, their jobs and experience and propose pay ranges that would be comparable from department to department and also competitive with other employers in the area, using a lot of interviews and a sophisticated computer program that Johanson has developed.

His presentation was at the invitation of the personnel committee, chaired by Jeanette Minton.

The cost of the service would be about $27,000. Discussion of Johansonís proposal was placed on the agenda for the September meeting.

County Judge Charlie Troutman reported that the refurbishing of quarters for the new, third, Lonoke County Circuit Court was completed for about $32,000. Troutman was authorized to spend $50,000.

He also reported that state Sen. Bobby Glover and state Rep. Lenville Evans had helped get $170,000 for use in completing the courthouse annex. Gloverís share was $110,000.

Troutman said he thought it could be done for about $70,000.

He said the balance could be available to finish the 22-bed expansion of the county jail, estimated to cost $350,000 to $375,000. Sheriff Jim Roberson warned the court that the expansion would require hiring one new employee per jail shift, by law.