correction, March 22 at 11 a.m.: The article originally listed "First Service Bank" regarding lease-purchase. This is incorrect, it is First Security Bank. We regret any confusion this may have caused. 

Working through the hiring freeze was the most time consuming issue at the recent Quorum Court meeting, held Thursday, March 16.

Justices debated the cost of employees versus the projected downturn in revenue for this year, in this case with the sheriff's department as it worked through personnel turnover. Law enforcement continued as a topic as vehicle cost for the sheriff's department and the need for constables was also discussed.

“I think I've done a poor job explaining the hiring freeze,” Justice Dale James said to the court.

The hiring freeze, by an ordinance passed earlier the first meeting of the year was, as the ordinance's sponsor James explained, in reconciliation to a projected shortfall as the county revenue for 2017 is projected to be down $100,000 from 2016 revenue. This was due to no new energy extraction taking place in the county. The problem, he explained, is that even hiring in this environment would put the newly hired in a position where their position may not be funded in the coming year's budget. Extending the problem was that when the so-called energy boom was underway, a number of people were hired for administrative roles which, with the lack of energy extraction, simply are not as necessary to county operations as they were during the boom, James said.

“I would rather disappoint someone right now than not be able to fund them next year,” James said.

As a component of the hiring freeze, new hires for the county are done by ordinance, voted by the court. To vote the court requires not only a formal request, but a job description presented by the requesting agency.

Against this was a request from Sheriff Scott Bradley to hire another full time employee for office administration and a full time employee for jail staff. Bradley had made this same request at the previous Quorum Court meeting for the office administrator, but the matter was tabled until the court was able to work out hiring procedures in light of the hiring freeze ordinance. Since then a jail employee had resigned, creating a second hiring requirement.

As each hiring decision was addressed separately, Bradley pointed out the jail staff hire was for a position “required by law,” as the state requires a certain number of jail employees against the number of inmates. In this case the need was for a female officer, in turn required to meet the needs of and for those inmates. The vote for the female full-time detention officer passed unanimously.

The office staff vote, however, was under tighter scrutiny by the court. Bradley explained to the board - after a review of the position's job requirements - that his office had a lot of paperwork and it was a matter of having staff on hand to keep matters organized.

“We will be written up again for not enough people,” Bradley explained to the board, as delays in processing lead to certification problems for the department.

“We are not saving money at the rate we need to save money for next year,” James responded.

Here Van Buren County Judge Roger Hooper pointed out the sheriff's request was for a full time employee. He emphasised this several times.

The matter came to a vote with five justices for hiring the secretary, four against, permitting the sheriff to hire a new full time employee for office administration.

In a separate matter, the council voted in unanimous support of an ordinance continuing the sheriff's department lease-purchase of patrol vehicles - working with First Service Bank - continuing what was presented as a successful effort to keep both quality vehicles, and to keep the values of department vehicles us as they were turned in for newer vehicles.

A lack of Constables in the county led to further discussion as a resolution was passed by the court showing constable vacancies in Archy, Davis, Linn Creek, Red River and Union townships. By this resolution, the governor is able to appoint people to these positions. Constable Ingram Phillips, from Fairfield Bay, presented to the board the details of acting as a constable, most notable being that anyone can be appointed, but before acting as a constable the person must undergo extended training. The position is not county-paid, and expenses are paid by the constable.

In a post-meeting development, Van Buren County Clear Pam Bradford confirmed via Email that constable is a position held until lost in an election. If nobody runs against the person holding the position, they then continue to hold office of Constable.

In other Quorum Court matters:

The animal shelter has sent 41 dogs to Massachusetts recently, with demand for adoption animals into that region increasing.

County roads have moved 30,882 tons this year to date

Adjustments were made to per diem allotments so when prison transport was done straight-through the officer could still have meals reimbursed, even when there was not an overnight stay. Frequently, as was explained to the board, prisoner transport is done by drivers working in shifts, one driving, one sleeping