Expense in tourism and hiring new employees were the two main topics at the Quorum Court meeting held Thursday, July 20, 6 p.m. in the County Annex.
In tourism the process began to fund a billboard on the south side of the county promoting access to Greers Ferry Lake, and after extended debate the court voted to fund the school resource officer for Clinton School.
Tourism began with a presentation by Gayle McRae with the Greers Ferry Lake & Little Red River Tourism Association, showing the types and range of advertising available to promote tourism in the area. Following was a presentation by members of the county Tourism Committee, which included Justice Mary Philips, speaking in favor of tourism promotion’s ability to produce revenue for the county. While several spoke in favor of investing in tourism, one noteworthy point was by committee member and Fairfield Bay Mayor Paul Wellenberger who spoke about that city, in the face of declining revenue, committing to investing in marketing in 2011 which had in turn added several million in revenue for Fairfield Bay since that commitment.
Philips, along with other committee members, including Jessica Crabtree and Jackie Sikes, spoke regarding the partnership with Uncommon Communities, of the University of Arkansas Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, which was helping form strategies and goals for increasing community revenue, including through tourism.
Finally was the presentation by committee member and City of Clinton Mayor Richard McCormac about the ability to place a billboard on the south side of Clinton near the highway 336 intersection promoting Van Buren County and its access to Greers Ferry Lake. McCormac had materials and personnel, as well as property agreements, lined up to install a billboard which would use interchangeable “skins” to allow changing its message out quickly. The resulted with a request before the council for $7,775 for both skins, and material beyond what was on hand for the 40 x 20 billboard footing.
In discussion prior to vote, Justice Todd Burgess pointed out how crowded lake access was already, with some concern that promotion would only make lake crowding worse - with several other justices in agreement with this point. Still, in vote the body voted unanimously for an ordinance to transfer $7,775 to the Economic Development Budget.
The following ordinance created a great deal more dissension in the court, as the salary for the new Clinton School - School Resource Officer (SRO) was presented. The court had previously approved the resource officer position coming under the control of the sheriff’s office, moving it from a City of Clinton Police position. The Sheriff department and use of deputies was already in place for Southside and Shirley school resource officers. With that vote, Clinton School Superintendent Andrew Vining said - in a statement before the court meeting - that the school board had offered the position to current Van Buren County Sheriff’s office investigator Wesley Potts, who had accepted the position.
Vining presented to the court that the salary included an additional $4,000 per year above the deputy salary, as Potts would also be teaching a class, the cornerstone of a new program being initiated at Clinton School which would qualify students for Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
The ordinance request, sponsored by Justice Dale James, was for $23,607 for Pott’s salary for the budget period ending Dec. 31. In discussion, Justice Burgess expressed concern that the salary was higher than for other school resource officers, which was countered by Vining that the salary included monies for teaching a class - part of the hiring agreement between the school board and Potts. Implied, however, was that Potts, being a more-senior officer than the other school resource officers, was being paid a higher base salary.
When the ordinance came to vote, Burgess, along with Justice’s Housley and Sundelin voted “No,” resulting in the ordinance not passing (Justice Brian Tatum was absent for this meeting.) “The school doesn’t have a resource officer,” Judge Roger Hooper said when the vote was announced.
A 10-minute break followed as the recording tape for the meeting was changed, during which a great deal of discussion took place between justices and members of the audience about the situation and the lack of SRO. Post-break a presentation was made by the Order of the Purple Heart and then, under new business, county attorney Chad Brown explained that the board could vote to suspend the rules, then re-vote on the salary ordinance.
These steps were completed, and the ordinance came up for vote, this time passing unanimously and providing a salary for the Clinton Schools SRO. James thanked the other members of the court for their vote, and Judge Roger Hooper made a brief statement on the important of working together.