Leader Blues

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >Decision put off on county jail upgrades

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

With a wide range of proposals under consideration, the Lonoke County Quorum Court on Thursday deferred until next Thursday discussion on building a new jail or an addition to the old one.

The quorum court building committee, chaired by Larry Odom, debated some of those possibilities in a Tuesday night meeting at Cabot, but the Thursday night’s quorum court agenda was so full that the justices approved Odom’s motion to table discussion until the special meeting next Thursday.

In other action, the court unanimously voted to hire Johanson Group Systems to study the duties and pay of county employees, compare them to other, similar counties and private industry and come up with a proposed pay schedule for all employees.
The three-year project will cost about $35,000, $27,000 of it the first year.

PERSONNEL STUDY

It was JP Jeanette Minton’s idea at least half a year ago to hire Johanson, but the county faced big building
expenses and the court deferred action at that time until it had a better idea of its 2008 finances.

The actual ordinance will be presented at the March meeting, as will modifications to the county personnel policy.
In other business, the court rejected the Southbend Volunteer Fire Department’s proposal to adopt the 2000 edition of the

International Fire Code.

Under the new code, the fire department would inspect businesses, including daycare facilities or nursing homes in their district. Odom said the reason some people live in the country is to avoid regulation and that he wouldn’t vote for the proposal. The court rejected the proposal 7-5.

Also, the court appropriated $27,389 toward finishing the Brownsville Branch project. The project is intended to reduce or alleviate flooding in about 28 acres north of Lonoke on state Hwy. 31.

It amended its budget to account for $4,850 from the state, which will be passed through to the Lonoke Health Clinic to pay for an emergency generator.

Dist. 10 Justice of the Peace Kyle Lackey resigned his seat because he was moving to Sherwood and the court unanimously approved a resolution declaring a vacancy to exist and asking Gov. Mike Beebe to appoint a new JP.

In other action, the court approved a resolution authorizing Troutman to sign resolutions applying for several grants.

The Woodlawn Community is seeking $190,000 to renovate and restore the community/senior center.

The Martin Loop Park is seeking $8,583 to resurface the playground and buy new equipment.

The sheriff’s office is seeking two General Improvement Fund grants totaling $79,000 to repair and rewire part of the Lonoke
County Jail.

JAIL MEETING

The county had intended to build a 17-bed addition to the jail, but the low bid was about 50 percent higher than anticipated, and the bid was rejected.

After talking with the apparent low bidder and factoring in cost-savings changes, the cost of expanding the jail dropped about $100,000 to $495,000, but the building committee members said Tuesday that they weren’t about to recommend spending that much money for 17 new beds.

Odom said he liked the idea of building a no-frills jail for about $2.2 million, using inmate labor when possible.

Justice Lynn Clarke is investigating the feasibility of redirecting revenues from existing taxes to pay off a new $4.5 million jail.

Also under consideration is adding space to the existing jail by building in the middle of the U-shaped building.

Attending that building committee meeting were justices Odom, Lynn Clarke, Mark Edwards and Donna Pederson, and Sheriff Jim Roberson and former Justice Pete Pedersen.