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Quorum Court Tackles Heavy Agenda

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August 28, 2011 by wcobserver

By Jamie Smith

FAYETTEVILLE – It was a busy night Aug. 11 for the Washington County Quorum Court as the members discussed asking the federal government to repeal a transportation ruling, made new rules for scrap metal companies, apportioned money for several major projects, welcomed a new member and said goodbye to a second, and created a new committee.

The Rural County Mandate Relief Act of 2011 is a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives that would repeal parts of a public law passed in 1992 that requires all government entities that manage roadways to make several safety-oriented but expensive changes to their road systems. This includes customizing signage nationwide to have the same style, and to require signs to have reflective qualities.

The reason some in the country want to repeal the law is because of the burden it places on small towns, counties, etc. to have to replace their signage to be in compliance with the law.

After a lengthy discussion, the justices of the peace voted 7-5 to support asking Congress to repeal the law.

Those in favor of repealing the law said they strongly supported the idea of having the new signage, but were against the idea of the federal government requiring it be done all at once and without additional funding to make it more feasible. Several JPs said the county should replace the signs, but be allowed to do so on the county’s own schedule.

Those who were against asking the government to repeal the law disagreed that the law is an unfunded mandate because road departments have received money over the years for signage and other changes (although not specifically designated for this project). They said that having consistent safety signage across state lines is important to save lives.

Scrap metal records

The Quorum Court also passed an ordinance that requires all scrap metal companies to keep, maintain and submit all of their records electronically. These records include monitoring who is selling scrap metal and from where they get the metal. Law enforcement officials monitor this information to determine if someone might be stealing scrap metal, especially the metals that bring in higher amounts such as copper. Copper thefts are on the rise in the area.

There are no scrap metal companies in the county right now, which means that no company should find undue hardship by the new requirement.

“If a company comes in to do scrap metal they will know this before they go into business,” JP Eva Madison said.

Setting aside money

The JPs also voted to apporpriate funds for several projects including a one-time $500 bonus to all full-time county employees, excluding elected officials. State law does not allow the bonuses to be given to elected officials. This bonus was passed several months ago and this apportionment from the long-term contingencies fund is simply making it a reality.

The JPs also apportioned $58,092 from long-term contingencies to pay the fees for the architect that is developing plans to expand the Juvenile Detention Center.

Saying Hello, Goodbye

Margie Alsbrook joined the justices of the peace Thursday as the replacement for Gary Carnahan, who resigned last month to move to Hot Springs. She was appointed by the governor but her paperwork is not final, which prevented her from being sworn in. She attended the meeting for information purposes only and did not vote.

A second JP resigned in as many months when Springdale’s Micah Neal resigned Thursday after serving nearly nine years on the court. Neal moved to a different part of Springdale that is out of his district. His fellow JPs applauded Neal as being willing to “take the heat for standing up for his beliefs.” Gov. Mike Beebe will appoint a replacement for Neal.

New committee

County Judge Marilyn Edwards appointed a new committee to study the county’s information technology program. The four JPs on the new committee are Eva Madison, Rick Cochran, John Firmin and Joe Patterson.

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