I’m writing this letter to you on July 17, 2017. After a mild winter, we have had a very rainy spring and start of summer. Because of all the rain we have had to defer some planned road work and have had to fix several washouts. But compared to the counties south and north of Van Buren County, we have sustained for less monetary losses and physical damage from the rains. It appears at this time, we are experiencing a mild summer temperature with above average precipitation.

Update on Improvements on Road Plans

2017 Road Plan2017 Actual (Thru 7-7-17)YTD Jan 2011-July 2017Tons of gravel100,000 tons76,292 tons927,000 tons; 48,790 loadsMileage of 4” gravel and Drainage Improvement38.0 miles25.8 miles288.4 milesAsphalt Overlay2.5 miles0

72.6 miles

Chip and Seal2.5 miles0

70.4 milesNew Chip and Seal14.1 Miles0

61.3 milesTotal miles of road improvement

65.1 miles25.8 miles492.7 miles

We will begin our chip and seal sealing operation and asphalt overlay jobs in late July, August, September and October. The price for oil for Chip and Seal is down seven percent compared to 2016 prices. Total mileage of county maintained roads is 820 miles.

In my last letter to you, I began a series of several articles that went over why and how county government functions. This present newsletter will cover the County Judge Duties. We will use the following definition from the “Introduction to County Government” by The Association of Arkansas Counties:

The chief officer for the county government in Arkansas is the county judge. As chief executive, the judge authorizes and approves the disbursement of all appropriated county funds, operates the system of county roads, administers ordinances enacted by the quorum court, has custody of county property, accepts grants from federal, state, public and private sources, hire county employees except those persons employed by other elected officials of the county, and presides over quorum court without a vote, but with power of veto (A.C.A S 14-14-1101-1102)

All power not vested in the county judge as chief executive officer of the county shall county shall continue to be exercised and administered by the county court, over which he county shall continue to be exercised and administered by the county court, over which the county judge shall preside. The county court, in fact, is the county judge sitting in judicial role.

The county court of each county has exclusive original jurisdiction in all matters relating to:County Taxes: Including real and personal ad valorem taxes collected by county government. The county court’s authority in this area includes jurisdiction over the assessment of property, equalization of assessments on appeal, tax levies, tax collections, and the distribution of tax proceeds.Paupers: The court’s jurisdiction includes all county administrative actions affecting the conduct of human services programs serving indigent residents of the county where services are financed in total of in part by county funds.Jurisdiction in each other case that may be necessary to the internal improvement and local concerns of the respective counties including county financial activities and works of general public utility or advantage designed to promote intercommunication, trade and commerce, transportation of persons and property, or the development of natural resources, which are not otherwise transferred to the county judges to be administered in an executive capacity.

The county court shall have all other jurisdiction now vested by law in the county court under the provisions of Section 28 of Article 7 of the Constitution which were transferred to the county judge under the provisions of Section 3 of Amendment 55 to the Arkansas Constitution, (and those powers removed by Amendment 67 as they pertain to the apprenticeship of minors. (A.C.A. § 14-14-1105) In addition to the duties of the county court, the county judge is responsible for coordinating the day-to-day inter-governmental relations between the various state and federal agencies operating at the county level. The judge must also apply for all federal and state assistance moneys for which the county is eligible, and appoints the members to all administrative and advisory boards in the county, some of which should be confirmed by the quorum court.

Some Economic Happenings in the County

The Diamond Pipeline in the south part of the county is on schedule and should in operation around the first part of 2018.

The four lane expansion on Highway 65. The eight mile section from Bee Branch to Clinton: Bid letting scheduled for October 2017.

New retail businesses that have opened since the last report are as follows:

Dollar Store- Clinton; Hibachi Express- Clinton; Cash savers- Damascus; His and Hers Tanning Tees and more - Fairfield Bay; Greyt and Tymes- Fairfield Bay; Love Lynx- Fairfield Bay

Real Estate continues to sell at a reduced rate of 14 percent in Van Buren County, versus the second quarter of 2016, which was a high-volume quarter in 2016. The number of residential sales in 2017 was 55 vs. 64 in 2016 for the county. The average days on the market is 198 days in 2017 for county wide sales. Inventory of residential housing for sale continue to reduce.

Talking to building contractors, we are seeing an improvement in remodeling and renovation of residential housing. I know of 10 new residential housing that is presently in some form of construction. This isn’t a big amount but considerable more than 2-3 years ago

Latest Statistics for Tourism in Van Buren County for calendar year 2016 are (excerpt for the 2016-2017 Arkansas Parks and Tourism Annual Report):Travel Generated Expenditures: $61.0 millionTravel Generated Payroll: $10.0 millionTravel Generated Employment: 533Travel Generated Local Taxes: $1.76 millionTotal number of visitors: 226,000

These numbers do not include any time-share numbers. Wyndham Resorts rent about 6,000 units annually and they are in the second year of a three-year plan to remodel and update a total of 132 units.

Van Buren County ranks 22 out of 75 Arkansas Counties for Travel Generated Expenditures.

This is an area of our economy that we need and can grow. Cleburne County has almost 3 times the Travel Generated Expenditures and Stone County has 1.5 times.

I hope this newsletter helps keep you informed about County government. It is so important that we keep challenging ourselves and our community to grow and build a better future.

Until next time, thanks and God bless!

Van Buren County Judge Roger Hooper