The two agenda items that garnered the most debate at the Quorum Court meeting last Thursday evening were the new deputy sheriff positions with the impact on the county budget for this and the sale of the old Office of Emergency Management (OEM) building to Breakin’ Bread, a non-profit organization.

Alan Malone (R-District 5) reintroduced his February ordinances to create two full time sheriff deputy positions to patrol the federal parks in the county and the necessary adjustments to the Sheriff’s budget. Sheriff Chris Brown had obtained a new two-year contract with the Army Corp of Engineers (Corp) at an increased hourly rate of $26 to cover the budget increases in salaries, benefits and equipment for the new deputy positions.

“I don’t have a problem this year, but going forward year-to-year there may be a problem because we approve county department budgets in November or December,” said Chad Evans (R-District 6).

After County Judge Jerry Holmes stated that the federal fiscal year begins October 1, Malone interjected, “The way to fix the problem going forward is to negotiate the Corp agreement earlier to fit our budget timing.”

“We expect other county departments to go by the budgets we pass,” said Brent Foust, (R-District 8). “I’m concerned that we’re only two months into the new budget year and we’re increasing the Sheriff’s budget by $80,000.”

Per Foust the costs for new taser equipment approved in February plus the increase of almost $56,000 to fund the new deputy positions should have been presented to the Budget Committee last October.

“My predecessor decided to leave new budget requirements up to whoever would be the new sheriff,” Brown responded. “I can’t find certified officers who are willing to work part time. The only solution is to hire two full time certified officers to fulfill our contract with the Corp.”

Malone pointed out that the new Corp contract begins March 13.

“I have qualified candidates for these deputy positions. We tested last week and I expect to hire for these positions by Monday,” said Brown.

The ordinances to create the positions and to amend the Sheriff’s budget passed.

In 2013 the County leased the old OEM building to Tommy Toombs for $500/month. The OEM department had relocated to the Claude Dill Office Complex. Breakin’ Bread, a non-profit organization, was formed to set up a soup kitchen to serve the citizens of Cleburne County in the old OEM building. Recently, the organization expressed an interest in purchasing the building.

“The law is different when the county sells property to a non-profit,” Judge Holmes stated as he distributed a copy of the law to Quorum Court members. The county may sell property to “incorporated, quasi-public, non-profit, non-sectarian organizations” and that “upon the approval of the county judge and a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the quorum court.”

“It is still owned by the taxpayer,” stated Brent Foust. “It should go to competitive bid.”

“We got an entity that the county got some monetary value from. If it (building) had stayed empty for two more years, we would have had to use a track hoe to tear it down like the old nursing home,” argued Holmes.

Sherry Shearer, board member of Breakin’ Bread, stated, “We spent $30,000 on improvements to the building since taking it over. It needs a new roof and we recently received a bid of $9,000 to get the repairs done. We have the finances to purchase the building now.”

“Are you including the equipment?” asked Sam Henegar (R-District 2).

“The equipment was donated or donations received to purchase the equipment. Two air conditioners had to be replaced. The county paid for half of this,” said Shearer.

“We still need to get an appraisal,” Henegar said. “We said this could happen at the very first,” Henegar asserted when Shearer pointed out that the appraisal could go up.

“Properties on 7th Street appraise for $65-70,000,” stated Chad Evans. “Properties on side streets off 7th would be less. I’m comfortable with $45,000. I’d like to be out of the rental business because there’s a liability there, too. It’s in the best interest of the county to do this – to stop the repairs.”

“It’s not just about dollars,” stated Steve Choate, (I-District 9). “We’re not taking into effect the intangible value to the county. They provide a service to the county and its people.”

Tim Caldwell (I-District 3) made a motion to offer the building ‘as is’ for $45,000 and close in 30 days. Evans seconded the motion. The motion passed.

Other business included the approval for the County Clerk to implement direct deposit for county employee payroll and the matching fire department fund up to $750 for every individual fire department that raises that amount between May 29th and September 4, 2017.

The next Quorum Courtmeeting will be April 13, 6 p.m. at ASU Heber Springs, Entergy Room.