Ashley County Quorum Court members met last week and agreed to wait on legal advice before working on a dispatcher dispute with the city of Hamburg. Justices also considered the purchase of a vehicle, leaf and limb dumping, and water issues at the county landfill.
Jeff Langley, representing the budget committee, said the city of Hamburg is behind on payments for county dispatching services. He also said committee members discussed changing the fee from $48,000 per year to $55,000 per year and moving from one annual payment to monthly payments.
The county has provided dispatching service since 2003, but according to Langley, there has not been a written agreement since then.
“We’ve not had a written agreement with the city of Hamburg since 2003 and it was not legal,” Langely said. “What the budget committee is burdened with is how do we pursue money owed, can we pursue money that is owed, so we can move forward.”
Some of the court members suggested offering a write off for the past amount and starting fresh with the contract because the prior agreements may or may not have been done correctly.
Langley also said the amount and frequency of past payments had been inconsistent.
He said wiping it clean would give both parties a chance to negotiate an agreement, but the court would need to decide that after they were given all of their legal options. Some justices agreed that starting fresh would be the answer; others weren’t in agreement that it should be completely wiped clean because regardless of the confusion, the Hamburg city officials were aware they owed something.
Justice Ronnie Wheeler pointed out that the mayor of Hamburg had been made aware of the balance in 2017 and 2018 and that up to as much as $38,000 had been paid at one time.
“Last year or the year before they paid $38,000 so they are aware the amount is owed,” Wheeler said. “Everybody knew about it, it’s an easy $100,000 they were behind and they were made aware of that the last two years.”
Langley’s proposal was to hold off on the old balance and offer a new agreement to the city of Hamburg. “If we approve today, it will give the judge the ability to tell the mayor that we will do this service for this much money,” Langley said.
The $55,000 amount was figured by totaling up a dispatcher’s salary, overtime and holiday pay. It would cover services from Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2019 with payments to be made monthly, which means the city would currently owe for three months of service.
“They may have something else they want to do, but if they don’t agree to that, they need to find someone else to dispatch for them because we have to be paid for the services we are rendering,” Langley said.
The budget committee, again via Langley, also requested approval for a new truck for the Ashley County sheriff’s office. Langley said another Tahoe was having engine problems and that one of the deputies was driving a 1999 Crown Victoria as a temporary solution. Justices approved the financing of a truck for no more than $25,000 with less than 30,000 miles on it.
Justice Wheeler reported that citizens are concerned about the trash on Dunmore Loop. “Judge it has become a dumping site and we need to get it cleaned up,” Wheeler said. Justice Rhonda Pippen said that other roads were just as bad especially those around “five point.” Sheriff Tommy Sturgeon said that there are roads all over the county that have become graveyards for appliances and some areas were becoming dumping sights for household trash. “Mrs. Pippen’s road is household trash. People are dumping their whole trash bags, ” Sturgeon said. Judge Hudson said that Lainey Road was a road he was aware of and that the county had cleaned it and several others up multiple times. Wheeler asked about getting cameras or something that could prevent the constant dumping and the court decided that was something that could be discussed in the future.
Ricky Sims told the court that residents of Crossett had contacted him since Crossett was no longer picking up leaves and limbs for their residents. Judge Hudson said that leaves could be brought to the landfill and he would encourage people to do so, however, limbs could only be brought to the landfill if they were chipped. Hudson said that the leaves are light and wouldn’t weigh very much and the fees are determined by weight. “If we don’t let them bring leaves, we are going to have a mountain of trash bags dumped on the sides of the roads,” Hudson said. The issue of whether or not they had to be in a bag came up and Judge Hudson said they did not have to be bagged, but he suggested that they put them in something to bring them to the landfill. “They can bring them ever how they can get them there, although if they don’t put them in a bag, they aren’t going to have them when they get there,” Hudson said. The limbs left unchipped will tear the liner and that is why the landfill cannot accept unchipped limbs. Sims asked what residents were supposed to do with limbs since they couldn’t be brought to the landfill. Hudson said he didn’t have an answer, but that he was told the city of Crossett could contact FEMA and get a designated area to burn.
Hudson told the court that the county did not get approved for the USDA grant they were seeking in order to solve their landfill water issue. Wheeler asked if the judge had reached out to Crossett to see about dumping water with their facility as their system was different. “I realize it’s a lot further, but there is no chemical expense,” Wheeler said. Hudson said he was looking into a filter or spray rig and he would report back. “We are still looking for answers; we’ve not stopped yet,” Hudson said.
Circuit Clerk Vickie Stell reported that her office would be closed May 14 and that they would have limited employees for the two weeks following as she and her workers would be attending training.