Members of the Ashley County Quorum Court said the county body is waiting on legal advice to determine how to solve a dispatcher dispute with City of Hamburg.
Justice Jeff Langley, representing the budget committee, said that the committee had discussed presenting a $55,000 annual fee to be paid monthly to the City of Hamburg in exchange for the police dispatching service that the county has provided since 2003.
Langley said the issue at hand is an overdue balance. Langley said the budget committee was unable to bring a proposal to the entire court regarding the balance because they don’t know what the legal options are.
“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,” Langley said.
Some of the justices 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.
“We’ve not had a written agreement with the City of Hamburg since 2003 and it was not legal,” Langley said.
Langley also said the amount and the frequency of the amount that has been paid has been inconsistent. Sheriff Tommy Sturgeon said that he billed $48,000 per year because that’s what his predecessor had done.
“What I was told when I took office was to bill $48,000 in January and that’s what I did,” Sturgeon said.
Langley said, however, that the 2003 agreement had been noted as a different amount. Langley 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, but 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 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 new agreement that Langley asked the court to approve was that the county provide police dispatch services to the city of Hamburg for $55,000 per year.
The amount was figured by totaling up a dispatcher’s salary, overtime and holiday pay. The $55,000 would cover services from Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2019 with payments to be made monthly — not annually — which means the city would currently owe the court 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.
Langley’s other request from the budget committee was regarding a new truck for the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office.
Langley said one of the ACSO’s Tahoes was having engine problems and that one of the deputies was driving a 1999 Crown Victoria as a temporary solution. The justices approved that a truck costing no more than $25,000 with fewer than than 30,000 miles be financed for the ACSO.
In other news:
-Wheeler reported that residents are concerned about the trash on Dunmore Loop.
“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 the area known as Five Point.
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 Jim Hudson said he was aware that Lainey Road had become an illegal dumping ground, and the county has 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.
-Justice Ricky Sims told the court that residents of Crossett had contacted him since Crossett was no longer picking up leaves and limbs.
Hudson said that leaves could be brought to the landfill and he would encourage people to do so, though 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. Landfill 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 the leaves had to be in a bag came up and 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.
Limbs left unchipped will tear the landfill liner, which is why the landfill can not accept unchipped limbs, he said.
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 the appropriate agencies and get a designated area to burn.
-Hudson told the court that the county was not 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 futher, 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 a training.