Quorum Court uses caution while meeting

Saturday, April 4, 2020

BURDETTE— Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi County Quorum Court met under unusual circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic as they were originally supposed to meet last Tuesday in Osceola for their monthly March meeting.

Nine justices were present for the meeting; Justice Fred Fleeman and Justice Slyvester Belcher were not present.

Sixteen total people were in attendance for the meeting, including members of the press, nine justices, two sheriff department deputies, County Clerk Janice Currie, County Judge John Alan Nelson, County Attorney Jeremy Thomas and Steven Savage and Cindy George, both with county judge’s office. Also Sheriff Dale Cook and Captain Morgan George was listening via Zoom.

County Finance Director Kelli Jones said she was told by George that she was not allowed to attend the quorum court meeting.

George noted Jones had asked her if she needed to be there, and George replied she did not see a reason for her attendance. George added officials were trying to limit the number of attendees because of COVID-19.

Officials initially tried to set up a Zoom meeting, but ran into technical difficulties. Jones was on Zoom list.

Thursday, the court looked at one resolution and eight ordinances, seven of which passed.

The approved resolution amended resolution R-2016-07; this amendment changes the wording, saying that the Great River Economic Development Foundation, INC. (GREDF) would allow projects that are closely related with local manufactures. The measure reads, “2. Work those projects which are closely related with local manufacturers, i.e., with companies which act in close support of manufacturers by performing functions which would otherwise have to be performed by the manufacturer.”

After the reading of the resolution by Currie, Justice Bill Nelson made the motion to amend the resolution. Justice Michael White seconded and the resolution passed unanimously.

The first ordinance discussed was the clean-up budget. According to White, the clean-up budget happens every year and is always voted on during the March meeting. White made the motion and Justice Nelson seconded. The clean-up budget passed unanimously.

The third ordinance read was an appropriation ordinance for Mr. Davis’ Pickles. The appropriation ordinance was to move funds from line item: “Mr. Davis’ Pickles Rent” to line item: “Mr. Davis’ Pickles Commitment”.

Justice Nelson made the motion to adopt the ordinance, and White seconded. The appropriation ordinance passed unanimously.

The fourth ordinance was an appropriation of $2,000, so the county could enter into a contract with “Consolidated Administrative Services for the administration of the County’s administration of FMLA and COBRA services”.

White moved for the adoption of the ordinance and Justice Rick Ash seconded the motion. The appropriation ordinance passed unanimously.

The fifth ordinance passed unanimously was a project with Ellis Processing and Material Handing Marine, LLC. Project Commitment. The ordinance appropriates $600,000 to the project. Justice Nelson made the motion to approve the ordinance and Justice Howard “Bubba” Norvell seconded.

The sixth ordinance was an appropriation ordinance for Glencore; the amount appropriated for the project was $660,000. After the reading of the ordinance Justice Nelson made the motion to approve the appropriation ordinance and Justice Neil Burge seconded. The appropriation ordinance passed unanimously.

The last ordinance passed was for the Arkansas Northeastern College W.O.R.K. Program in the amount of $200,000. Justice Nelson stated the W.O.R.K. Program has been working but needs more funding. After the reading of the ordinance Justice Nelson made the motion and Justice Betty Hepler seconded, with it passing unanimously.

The last ordinance discussed concerned hiring a new employee, which will be called the Internship Coordinator.

This position was discussed at the Planning and Development Committee meeting on March 18 and many justices in attendance asked if this was another way to get another person hired to do a job that was turned down a few months ago.

At that meeting, Economic Developer Clif Chitwood stated it would not be. However, the first line of this ordinance states, “WHEREAS, Great River Economic Development Foundation, Inc. has reported that it is in need of funds to assist in the hiring of one new employee, who shall serve as the Internship Coordinator.” After a motion, by Justice Nelson, and a second, by Hepler, Justice Nelson stood up and stated he didn’t like the way that it read and Jackson said the employee would be employed by Arkansas Northeastern College. Several justices agreed with Jackson, including Justice Nelson.

Chitwood was not present at the meeting due to Justice Nelson asking him to not attend due to trying to keep the numbers down due to the coronavirus.

Justice Nelson attempted to call Chitwood but didn’t get a response. Chitwood later called Judge Nelson during the meeting and stated there was miscommunication and if the ordinance failed it could be re-mentioned at a later date. The ordinance ended up failing with all nine justices voting no.

Also, discussed in the meeting was that Judge John Alan Nelson made justices aware that there was a positive test of the coronavirus in Mississippi County. He told the NEA Town Courier that the location has a 72315 zip code. Another topic discussed in the QC meeting was the court fees discussed in the Fire, Police and Safety Committee. Burge made the motion to authorize Judge Nelson and county attorney Jeremy Thomas to move forward with the settlement agreement of $30,000 to the plaintiffs. Hepler seconded the motion and the motion passed unanimously.