County raises spark heated debate over Batesville debt

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Article by
Madeline Pyle

A discussion about five percent raises for county employees turned heated at yesterday’s Independence County Quorum Court meeting when Sheriff Shawn Stephens said he would not be able to provide raises to his employees if the board approved the salary increase.

Stephens said he would have to provide comp time instead, which would leave the jail and police department short-staffed. Justice of the Peace Kenny Hurley responded by calling for the court to pursue unpaid debts for the jail owed by the City of Batesville, which sparked a heated debate among the court.

Justice of the Peace Jonathan Abbott said he agreed employees should receive higher wages, but he was concerned about rearranging the budget to accommodate raises when not all county departments, such as the Sheriff’s Department, could afford raises.

“Are we going to risk having an officer not there?”Abbott said.

Hurley asked County Treasurer Bob Treadway to provide an estimate of how much Batesville owed the county. Treadway estimated approximately $70,000.

Hurley asked Stephens if that amount would help Stephens provide raises to his employees, and Stephens replied, “Yes.”

“Are we so turned against each other that the city and the council can’t listen to what each other says? I’m not saying they don’t owe money. I’m just saying we should at least listen to them.” — JP Anna King

When asked to explain Batesville’s legal obligations to pay the debts, County Attorney Daniel Haney explained that although there was no official record of an agreement between the county and Batesville, there was still “a legal obligation” for the city to pay.

Haney sent a letter on April 26 to Batesville attorney Tim Meitzen proposing a payment solution. The city responded by requesting a meeting.

Abbott and Justice of the Peace Anna King inquired why the court and Batesville City Council had not met to discuss the debts.

“Maybe if we met they would put forth a proposal,” said King. “They don’t know because we won’t meet with them. Are we so turned against each other that the city and the council can’t listen to what each other says? I’m not saying they don’t owe money. I’m just saying we should at least listen to them. I’m sorry.”

County Judge Robert Griffin replied, “We’ve already done that. There’s nothing against talking, but there need to be specific things to talk about.”

The court ultimately moved for Haney to send another letter to the city with a formal agreement requiring signatures attached. The court also voted unanimously to provide raises to county employees. Departments that are unable to provide raises can provide comp time. (For more on this story, click here.)

In other business, Judge Griffin announced Brian Presley as the eighth member of the Arkansas 911 Board.

The court also voted to send a notice to constituents about the sales tax outside the City of Batesville. A constituent informed the court that addresses outside of Batesville could avoid the 10 percent Batesville tax and receive the correct tax of eight percent by including the four-digit code following their zip code for online orders.

In the Juvenile Detention Center report, Jonathan Pickering congratulated David Wilson on his promotion to Lieutenant. Pickering also noted the center made a profit of over $22,000 for the month of June.

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1 COMMENT

  1. This city and county could do a boat load of pork cutting. Then there would no issue with raises. The police dept. AND the county law officers should be the first to get a raise.

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