Photo: The Baxter County Quorum Court has moved to purchase property located at 908 U.S. Highway 62 West adjacent to the sheriff’s office. Photo: www.google.com/maps/place
The previously undisclosed location of property for which Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass was seeking quorum court approval was revealed Tuesday evening.
When the proposed ordinance was introduced during the court’s regular December meeting, Judge Pendergrass told the justices the property is located at 908 U.S. Highway 62 West adjacent to the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office. He says the property is a little over a half acre.
Pendergrass says the plans are to remove the structure on the property that has served as the location of several businesses and was originally a gas station. He says a document from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality indicates the gas tanks were removed from the property in 1999.
He says the property has previously been priced for sale at $150,000. However, the owner, whom he did not disclose, has agreed to sell it to the county for $80,000, including closing costs. Any difference in the selling price and the appraisal will be absorbed by the owner.
In other business, the court gave its unanimous approval, with JP Ty Chapman absent, to the 2021 county budget.
Among the highlights of the new budget is no increase in the cost of the county’s health insurance plan, a realignment of the county’s wage scale after adjusting for an increase in the minimum wage beginning Jan. 1 approved by voters in 2018. With the passage of Issue 5, Arkansas’s minimum hourly wage went to $9.25 in January 2019, to $10 in January 2020 and in its final step will increase to $11 on Jan. 1.
The budget also reflects a continued shift of costs of the 911 Center from the county general portion of the budget, as a result of action taken by the legislature in its last regular session.
In an earlier visit with KTLO, Class Hits and The Boot news, Pendergrass said the legislative action leading to additional cellphone fees is providing funding geared to making 911 centers self-sufficient.
The budget also reflects additional funds from the increase in the taxing rate for personal and real property by 2 mills approved in late 2019. At the time of its passage, the increased 2 mills were projected to generate $1.1 million annually.
Also included in the 2021 budget are four new law enforcement positions.
Pendergrass says the final three pages of the budget look different than past documents. He pointed out those pages contain lists of all county positions and the rate of compensation. He told the justices only they are empowered to approve positions beyond those listed in the document.
The court also gave its approval, with Justice Dirk Walkdrop dissenting, to the appropriation of $388,000 in coronavirus relief funds to three local non-profits.
With the court’s action, the Food Bank of North Central Arkansas and the 33 organizations it serves will receive $200,000, the Baxter County Fair Board $94,740 and the Baxter County Fire Chiefs Association for those departments in the unincorporated areas of the county $94,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.
Approval was given for the purchase of vehicle and parts and repairs for the sheriff’s department. Sheriff John Montgomery told the court the $69,500 will come from the collection of past due fines. He noted this year $205,000 has been collected and returned to victims of crimes, with 43 restitution checks yet to be processed.
And Judge Pendergrass recognized three justices serving in their final meeting Tuesday. Justice Gary Smith has served District 1 for 13 years, attending 161 meetings during this time. Justice Edna Fusco has served District 8 for six years, and Justice Dale Hershberger has served District 2 since the death of former JP Luci Soltysik earlier this year. As an appointee to the court, Hershberger is precluded from seeking election to the seat.
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