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Quorum Court Update - June 18th, 2023

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE DISTRICT 9 WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS

BETH COGER

June 18, 2023


NEWS AND UPDATE FROM LAST WEEK:


The Washington County Quorum Court held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, June 15, 2023. Here’s the link to the full video which I urge you to watch all the way through. It’s long but important. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bw0Vxto4qU


It was a pleasure to see such a huge community presence for the meeting. There’s always a fifteen minute public comment time at the beginning of the meeting for the community to address the court. There were still neighbors in line to speak to the court and a motion was made to extend the time so that everyone in line could speak, but that motion was voted down. It’s sad that when community members make the effort to attend a meeting, that they do not all get to speak to the court. Part of our job as JPs is to be good listeners and when we choose to exclude people, we don’t benefit from their knowledge and information, and it’s rude and dismissive to do so. I want us to be better than that.


A Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a wedding venue known as “Grand at Willow Springs” located on 30+ acres at Prairie View Road was approved by a vote of ten to four. Neighbors spoke about the increased traffic, incompatibility, noise, and loss in property values. I agreed that this venue was not compatible and I voted against the permit. The owners/applicants started the building for the wedding facilities in January without a permit.


The CUP for Overbey’s Automotive on Tallgrass Drive was approved. These neighbors expressed concerns and had valid points about incompatibility and decrease in property values. I voted against this CUP for the same reasons as above. This business has been operating since last July without a permit.


This happens often when CUPs come to the court after they have been operating or after construction has already commenced.


Washington County continues to grow and the zoning and land use issues need to be addressed, but we need to do it in a well throughout, data based decision making process, and with the help of experts such as the NWA Regional Planning Commission.


My ordinance to require online publication of ordinances and resolutions failed. I knew it was a hard push, but well worth the time and effort. Publication of these important documents should not be contingent on whether or not someone “wants” to do it. It should be our law that they are online.


I had been warned beforehand that someone from the majority was going to suggest this amendment to my ordinance. JP Coleman Taylor made a motion to add a sentence that the court direct the County Clerk to post the ordinances online. I had talked to former JPs for guidance and they said if I opposed the amendment the majority would say the ordinance wasn’t passable because it didn’t direct someone who was responsible for enforcement and my ordinance would fail (Actually that would be the county judge as I’d pointed out previously) Then, if the amendment was added, the majority would vote against it because, “we can’t tell other elected officials what to do.” That’s exactly what happened.


The ordinance failed with the following JPs voting against: JP David Wilson, District 2; JP Kyle Lyons, District 5; JP Lisa Ecke, District 6; and JP Charles Dean, District 7.


I feel successful with this, even though the ordinance didn’t pass, because our dedicated County Clerk, Becky Lewallen, started posting the documents online when I started this process in January, and I have met so many wonderful community members who have encouraged me with words and actions to follow through with this. My ordinance had a lot of community interest and there are many folks who agree with me that this ordinance is needed. I will bring this ordinance back as soon as I can (one year), but in the meantime I am working on an ordinance to require that all county contracts be posted online. That’s sure to get pushback.


(Starting at 3:01:35 in video) The ordinance to fund American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants to twelve local nonprofits failed, but will be back on the agenda in July. The vote was six for; six against; and two abstentions. These grants total just over $598,000. An outside vendor, NWA Economic Development District, was hired by the county and paid $35K to access and make recommendations as to eligibility requirements for the nonprofits.


Remember that Washington County received $46.6 Million Dollars (plus earned interest totaling several hundred thousand dollars) from the American Rescue Plan Act. None has gone to direct community aid. See here how the county has prioritized ARPA spendinghttps://drive.google.com/file/d/1oDFgKL8Y98M5ARsa2TGf_JhOTKUX_Vvz/view?usp=sharing.


JPs voting against the ordinance were: JP Coleman Taylor; JP David Wilson; JP Kyle Lyons; JP LIsa Ecke; JP Charles Dean; JP Willie Leming. JPs Butch Pond and Robert Dennis abstained. JPs Sean Simons, Shawndra Washington, Beth Coger, Suki Highers, Evelyn Rios Stafford and Gary Ricker voted in favor of funding the nonprofits.


JP Shawndra Washington gave a very heartfelt plea to the JPs in support of funding nonprofits. She cited history and facts. Unfortunately, in the end, there were not enough votes. There’s another chance at the July quorum court meeting, but it’s awful that these nonprofits are being treated with such disrespect. I left Thursday’s meeting feeling really bad for all the folk who came out and, again, asked for their money, only to be turned down.


CALL TO ACTION: Contact all JPs and Judge Deakins and tell them you want these nonprofits funded, and as quickly as possible, which will be the July meeting on July 13, 2023.


The Programs Committee of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee met Friday, June 16th, with Drew Smith, Judge Beaumont, Nick Robbins, and Kristin McAllister present. The committee discussed ways to help ease the burden of court ordered fines and fees, including legislative action. Ms. McAllister reported that the Crisis Stabilization Unit’s numbers were “way up” in May. There was also discussion by Nick Robbins of class schedules soon to be implemented at the WC Detention Center, three class times, seven days a week.


UPCOMING EVENTS THIS WEEK, JUNE 18, 2023:


The WC Courthouse is closed Monday, June 19th to observe Juneteenth.


CJCC Pretrial Subcommittee meets Tuesday, June 20th, 11:00 AM, WC Courthouse, Quorum Court Room. In person meeting only and no agenda is posted.


WC Election Commission meets Wednesday, June 21st, 9:00 AM. Note this meeting will be held at the WC Road Department, 2615 Brink Drive, Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Election Commission was moved out of the court house by Judge Deakins last month.


CJCC Courts Subcommittee meets Wednesday, June 21st, 12:00 PM, WC Courthouse, Quorum Court Room. In person meeting only and no agenda is posted.


CJCC full committee monthly meeting, Thursday, June 22nd, 12:00 PM, WC Courthouse, Quorum Court Room. In person meeting only and no agenda is posted.


Washington County Library Board meets Thursday, June 22nd, 3:30 PM. The library board usually meets in the Quorum Court Room, but the calendar event shows only a zoom meeting at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84676603774?pwd=ZVVoRHppLysyZThQN3dFVlJFRERLZz09


CALLS TO ACTION: Attend as many of these meetings as you can. Take notes. Share the information with your friends and community.


My second FOIA lawsuit against Washington County is scheduled for Tuesday, June 20th, 1:00 PM, but I don’t have an assigned court room. If you are interested and want to attend, reach out to me and I will let you know where the trial will take place. I will also post on social media. I am represented this time by attorney Steve Zega and the county is represented by WC Attorney Brian Lester.



Here’s a link with contact information for all Justices of the Peace and Judge Deakins: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tx_nJbsWcStPPtVIzPjzZxd5CBLC06BOUaNuG09JF0c/edit?usp=sharing


I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at ejcoger@gmail.com or text or call 479-306-9994.


See you at the courthouse!


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CORRECTION TO JP COGER'S UPDATE OF 6/9/24

WASHINGTON COUNTY QUORUM COURT FINANCE & BUDGET COMMITTEE MEETS TOMORROW, TUESDAY, 6/11/24, 6:00 PM, WASHINGTON COUNTY COURTHOUSE (Corrections are in red) AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE ANIMAL SHELTER BUDG

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Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication and for posting updates for us all. Your courage and tenacity are admirable.

Regarding the Ordinance to force Planning appeals to Circuit Court without a Quorum Court appeal, was it just the first reading and never a chance for it to be voted on? It all seemed very rushed past this Ordinance to me???

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