Updated: Jul 9
What happened last week? There weren’t any county meetings last week
What will you learn this week? I will walk you through several details about the ongoing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and get you prepared for the 7/20 Quorum Court meeting.
What you need to know about ARPA: (1) The QC will vote at the next QC meeting on 7/20 AGAIN (2) the vote is on whether or not to fund certain nonprofits that have been approved for ARPA grants from the county. (3) County attorney, Brian Lester, shows his true nature through an email exchange.
Remind me about ARPA and CARES money again?
Our county government received $46.4M dollars in ARPA funds
Before that, the county received $4.5M CARES Act dollars (over $3M of that went into the county's unappropriated reserve account)
None of CARES or ARPA has gone to direct aid for community organizations that helped our community survive during the pandemic.
In a quorum court meeting last year, Judge Joseph Wood stated the county was setting aside $2.3M for nonprofits. In newspaper articles since that time, the current WC Judge, Patrick Deakins, has been quoted as saying he didn't see the county going higher than that amount.
After an arduous application process, and various statements from some current and former JPs that nonprofits would be funded to that amount, the county's third party vendor, NWA Economic Development District, approved only eleven nonprofits to receive funding - out of over forty applications.
The county paid NWAEDD $35,000 to perform that work.
Despite numerous attempts to get this money to the nonprofits, there haven't been sufficient votes to make that happen. Last time we were one vote short.
Because I think it’s important that the community is informed about how our county elected officials and their representatives represent us, I am sharing with you correspondence between me and County Attorney Brian Lester. Here’s what happened:
I asked Lester for a legal opinion (full email here)
I was curious to know whether the county could be held liable for breach of an implied contract (for the $2.3M ARPA funds for nonprofits.
We had each nonprofit go through an arduous application process, we invited them to meetings to speak, and then we (the QC) voted NO on the ordinance.
His response: “JP Coger: Do you think that every student loan borrower has an implied contract with President Biden for his promise to eliminate student loan debt?” (full email here).
Lester, I’m still waiting for a response to my legal question… That’s our county government at work.
Upcoming Meetings & Events
WC ELECTION COMMISSION - NW REGIONAL MEETING FOR COUNTY BOARDS OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS meets Tuesday 7/11 @ 9:30 AM
WCDC, 1155 Clydesdale Drive, Fayetteville.
WC Election Commission is hosting this event of County election Commissioners, County Clerks and Election Coordinators. The State Board of Election Commissioners and the Secretary of State will present an overview of new election laws and law changes that occurred during the 2023 legislative session.
You can check out the full agenda here. There’s no link for a livestream of this meeting.
WC CRIMINAL JUSTICE COORDINATING COMMITTEE, PRETRIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE meets Tuesday 7/11 @ 12:00 PM, WC Courthouse.
Unfortunately these meetings never include an agenda and are NOT recorded. I am working with Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition (AJRC) on this and it is also the subject of a pending lawsuit.
What can we expect at this meeting? There’s been a push to get pretrial services started. Previously the full CJCC voted unanimously to pursue pretrial services in WC (see my previous Newsletter explaining this issue here).
WC PLANNING COMMISSION meets Thursday 7/13 @ 5:00 PM, QC Room, WC Courthouse. The meeting will be live streamed here. You must be present if you wish to comment on any proposals during the meeting. I’ve included specific agenda items we should pay attention to below:
Variance hearing for “Lodge at Water’s Edge,” 18645 Saddle Shop Lane, WC 383, Springdale, Arkansas 72764.
Land development hearing for Replat of Tracts 10 & 11, Honey Hollow Subdivision, 9986 Honey Hollow WC 2035, Winslow, AR 72959, proposed residential use.
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT HEARINGS:
Anytime Hauling, 22296 North WC 678, Summers, AR 72769, proposed commercial use, one acre, applicant Kevin Smith;
Wrapology, 4707 E Mission Blvd., Fayetteville, AR 72703, proposed commercial use, 0.86 acres;
Langham Shop Addition, 18946 Harmon Road, Fayetteville, AR 72704, proposed commercial warehouse, 2 acres, MOL;
WC QC FINANCE & BUDGET COMMITTEE meets Tuesday 7/11 @ 6PM, WC Courthouse. The meeting will be live streamed here.
Remember: there will be a 12 minute public comment time before a vote on each ordinance and a 12 minute public comment time at the end of the meeting after all votes and decisions have been made.
The agenda includes:
Monthly Treasurer’s Report
Employee Insurance Report
Comptroller’s Reports (Pages 3 - 31) which I urge you to read and let me know if you have questions.
Item 8.1: Ordinance to finance four new dump trucks at a cost of $814,360 principal, plus interest at 6.62% for five years, to be paid for by road fund revenues.
Item 9.1: Ordinance to appropriate $150,000 for three Peer Support Specialist positions. This ordinance corrects and repeals an ordinance passed last month for the same. We anticipate being reimbursed for this by the State of Arkansas.
Item 10.1: Ordinance appropriating the $399,996 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fund substance abuse treatment for participants in the Washington/Madison County Drug Court Program.
Item 11.1: Ordinance appropriating $15,532 to the underfunded 2023 Ambulance Service Fund budget.
Item 13.1: Ordinance appropriating $743,212.00 to cover 2023 budget shortfalls in insurance premiums for the county. Folks, this is how much our insurance premiums increased over 2022’s premiums. The highest increases are Fire and Extended Coverage for:
County Jail $386,531
Building & Grounds $245,013
Road Department $50,930
Emergency Management $10,451
Emergency 911 $8,177
County Sheriff $7,429
Information Technology $6,654
Item 15.1: Ordinance appropriating $7,469.12 to cover an increase in the newly hired deputy county attorney’s salary for the remainder of 2023. This position was already budgeted for 2023 at $97,119, so adding $6,069.89 will bring her total salary to $109,258.78. The most recent (prior to this hire) deputy county attorney's salary was $60,000. Washington County Attorney Brian Lester’s salary is $119,336.
I would love to hear from constituents on any questions or comments you have about any agenda item, or anything else.
We NEED Your Help!
Attend the CJCC meeting. Ask about pretrial services (it’s the Pretrial Services Committee).
Get to know your JPs, the County Judge, and Sheriff Cantrell. Tell them you want pretrial services in Washington County.
Read the Criminal Justice Assessment Study and learn what we should be doing to address jail over incarceration.
Share this Newsletters with your friends and neighbors!
I welcome your questions and comments, also suggestions you have for any county related business. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call 479-306-9994.
Here’s the link to email addresses and telephone numbers for JPs, County Judge, and others.
See you at the courthouse!