The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department will be adding three body cameras to their inventory with the help of $3,495.87 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), from the U. S. Department of Justice. The Van Buren Quorum Court unanimously agreed to establish a fund for the grant money during their monthly meeting Thursday, May18.


A $2,000 appropriation ordinance to the sheriff’s department for the South Side Bee Branch School District resource officer, however, generated quite a bit of discussion during the meeting.


The appropriation amount includes: $452.58 to match Social Security, $100 towards retirement funding, and $1,447.42 towards other fringe benefits. First, the wording of the ordinance had to be changed. The word “bonus” was amended to “lump sum payment,” since, unlike businesses, county governments can’t give bonuses. The court then discussed how resource officers at other schools were paid. J.P. Todd Burgess was the lone “no” during a roll-call vote on the ordinance.


“If I was an officer, I would have an issue with this,” Burgess told the court.


The quorum court also appropriated $6,000 to the Circuit Clerk Commissioner’s Fee Fund and $9,000 to the Child Support Fund. The money will be used to replace aging computers and other office equipment, including the purchase of a $2,500 paper shredder.


In the county road and equipment report Judge Roger Hooper told the group the county roads were mostly spared during April’s heavy rain and storms. The county did have to replace four culverts and spent about four days repairing roads.


“We had minimum problems compared to surrounding counties. The southern part of Van Buren County reported rain totals of seven inches. Cleburne and Faulkner counties reported nine to ten inches of rain with several bridges having washouts,” Hooper said.


Currently the county is working on repairing bad spots on Lo-Gap Road and recently added gravel to Timber Grove, Old Highway 9, and Mariposa roads. The county hauled 10,424 tons of gravel last month, making the amount hauled year-to-date 54,784 tons.


Judge Hooper also reported a county dump truck driver quit and will not be replaced and repairs are underway to the county’s water truck which will cost about $15,000 to $20,000.


Bright spots in Judge Hooper’s road and equipment report included a quick overview of the budget and lower prices on the oil for chip and seal. The road budget is running better than planned with only 24.7 percent spent, compared to 28.3 percent at this time last year. The cost of the main product used in chip and seal repairs has dropped from $1.86 per gallon last year, to $1.72 per gallon this year. The judge has ordered 160,000 of it, along with 50,000 of a pre-coat product used in chip and seal repairs.


Van Buren County Animal Control sent ten dogs to Massachusetts for adoption in April and plans are underway to send eight more in June. A local adoption event is also in the works around the end of June. During the animal control report, Reta Tharp told the court the animal shelter currently has 20 dogs, 14, puppies, 10 cats, and 11 kittens. Four dogs and four cats were picked up in Clinton in April. Eleven dogs and six cats were picked up elsewhere in the county. Of those 11 dogs, seven were from Shirley.


The report also noted the county has been holding two dogs of an incarcerated owner for four months. The owner refuses to sign paperwork releasing the dogs to the county.


Two guest speakers also addressed the court during the meeting.


Danny Griffin with the Van Buren County office of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service briefly updated the quorum court on the agency’s ongoing and upcoming programs and projects.


Miss Natural State Outstanding Teen Brooke Bradford of Shirley told the court about her ongoing efforts to help educate children about tornado safety with her “Ready, Set, Go!” emergency preparedness program. Bradford is competing in the Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen pageant this summer.