Washington County Update 11/5/2023
WASHINGTON COUNTY PROCEEDING WITH JAIL EXPANSION WITH ARPA FUNDS - RFQs OPENED FOR ARCHITECTURAL FIRM - DESPITE BEING INELIGIBLE USE OF ARPA $$$$ UNDER TREASURY RULES
WASHINGTON COUNTY PAYS ONE COGER FOIA JUDGMENT (COGER V. WOOD, LESTER, ECKE, POND ETAL)
→ The county finally paid my judgments in Coger v. Wood, Lester, Pond, Ecke Etal, but only after my attorney had to file another Writ of Execution. Here’s me depositing the check last Friday. This lawsuit wouldn’t have happened if the county had only posted JESAP meetings online (which they did until 8/21/21) AND if they’d answered a simple FOIA request. I asked them to do so and the county judge and county attorney refused. I represented myself in a two day trial and let me tell you, the whole thing was hard financially and emotionally on me and my family, but I would do it all over again. I will never again beg the county to abide by the law. The county has appealed the second AFOIA lawsuit Coger v. Deakins and it is on appeal to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. → COUNTY SERVICES COMMITTEE met Monday 10/30. You can watch the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/live/_ZGtidULT-M?si=C-sW8CPGJwz4vmOg → The PLANNING BOARD met Thursday 11/2 and you can watch that meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/live/GmDj8xUt0js?si=2ekWjCFC8r0T3SWh
→ Request for Qualifications for architectural firm to design so called “Jail Quarantine Addition” were opened 11/3/23. You can watch here: https://business.facebook.com/BethCogerForWashCo/videos/1052075242589957/?mibextid=zDhOQc Three firms applied: You can view them each. Risley Architects https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-uhcTbIocNolgLwEgmqRypBxQvO1IWWs/view?usp=sharing. Level 5 Architects https://drive.google.com/file/d/17LY1LZdfixke9AmNpH5y6QHlWD5e3XdL/view?usp=sharing and Hight Jackson Associates https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QUTL9WFFPGNTbLurH2mc2rml4n13eWZ6/view?usp=sharing US Treasury Final Rules prohibits use of ARPA money to expand correctional facilities. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HyLuRCApYOlBF6ZUJQpFAD0pBezlknh6/view?usp=sharing “Treasury presumes that the following capital projects are generally ineligible: Construction of new correctional facilities as a response to an increase in rate of crime Construction of new congregate facilities to decrease spread of COVID-19 in the facility…” If the federal government determines that we used ARPA money illegally, in violation of Treasury Rules & Regulations, we, the taxpayers of Washington County, could be on the line to repay that money.
WASHINGTON COUNTY FINANCE & BUDGET COMMITTEE meets Tuesday, 11/7/23 at 6:00 PM, WC Courthouse. IN PERSON ONLY Meeting will be livestreamed here: https://www.youtube.com/user/washcoar Here’s the agenda: chrome-extension://hbgjioklmpbdmemlmbkfckopochbgjpl/https://www.washingtoncountyar.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/29699 ITEM 7.1: Ordinance to appropriate $4,857,232.54 of (ALL OF THE REMAINING) American Rescue Plan Act Dollars (ARPA) money to build an emergency operation center. You can check out details and the design on the agenda and I’d appreciate any questions or comments you have about this matter. Total program cost is $8,280,232. So where’s the remainder of the money coming to fund this project? I am in agreement that we need an EOC, but there are a lot of unanswered questions here. ITEM 10.1: Ordinance dissolving the position of Kennel Superintendent and adding the position of Vet Technician in the Animal Shelter Budget. Is this a good idea? Was someone terminated and another person hired? If you know someone at the animal shelter, reach out to them and ask if this will help the shelter. Our animal shelter is very important to our community. ITEM 12.1: Ordinance establishing the WC Annual Budget for 2024. Truth that bears repeating: Our budget is a moral document. These are your hard earned tax dollars that we’re spending. Will our budget reflect your values? Study the budget here: chrome-extension://hbgjioklmpbdmemlmbkfckopochbgjpl/https://www.washingtoncountyar.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/29584/638302084990030000 ITEM 13.1: Ordinance by JP Highers to appropriate $33,436.00 from the ARPA Fund to Magdalene Serenity House. Interesting that this is the last item on the agenda because if Item 7.1 passes, there won’t be any ARPA $$ to fund this ordinance.
Where we need YOU this week!
→ Attend the Finance & Budget meeting Tuesday at 6:00 PM. → Check with the Animal Shelter to see if they’re good with this personnel change. (Item 10.1 above)
We NEED Your Help!
STILL NO PUBLIC ACTION TO APPOINT MEMBERS TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COORDINATING COMMITTEE. Continue to ask Judge Deakins to appoint members to the CJCC and to do so immediately and take necessary steps to see the CJCC is properly appointed and operational. The CJCC wants to bring a pretrial services program to the quorum court for funding, but it must exist in order to do that or anything else. This is too important. If you haven’t called, please do so, or send email, or go by the courthouse and speak to the judge in person. His door is “always open…” that’s what he said during his campaign.
Contact your JP and set up a time to meet them for coffee or just to get together. Become a regular voice in their ear and urge them to vote for criminal justice reform and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. I write this each week, but it really is important. That’s how I got started advocating to the court back in 2019. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. CAN YOU TAKE AN HOUR OR TWO AND MEET WITH YOUR JP AND SHARE YOUR CONCERNS OR COMMENTS, OR WHATEVER YOUR THOUGHTS ARE.
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I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at email@example.com or text or call 479-306-9994. See you at the courthouse!