By Judge Roger Hooper

Van Buren County Judge

I’m writing this letter to you the week of April 16. We had much below average temperatures this winter and until mid – February, very dry. Since mid-February the county has received 15-20 inches of rain. Although considerably above normal, our conditions prior were dry and the rains came over several days. We were able to resume normal road work after about a week of road repairs caused by the rains.

Here’s an update on road improvements listed with the 2018 planned amount, the amount so far this year up to April 12, and amount since 2011 to April 12.

Tons of gravel: 100,000 tons planned, 26,300 tons, so far this year up to April 12, and 1,003,000 tons since 2011 to April 12 (that’s 52,790 dump truck loads).

Mileage of 4” gravel and drainage improvement: 38.6 planned, 13.9 so far this year to April 12, and 310.10 since 2011 to April 12.

The plan this year calls for 2.5 miles of asphalt overlay (there’s been 76.9 miles of it since 2011), four miles of chip and seal overlay (there’s been 75.4 miles of it since 2011) and 31.1 miles of new chip and seal (there’s been 73.9 miles of it since 2011).

The total miles of road improvements planned for this year is 58.2, with 13.9 so far, with a total of 536.3 miles since 2011.

Last week, we completed a 3.5-mile section of road using an “Unpaved Road Grant” from the Arkansas Rural Development.

The $35,000 grant was specifically for gravel roads that have run-off water that flows into local streams.

This is the second time we have used this grant and will continue to look for future opportunities. This grant only has a $250,000 annual statewide funding, but hopefully the state will expand this fund.

Beginning in 2017, we started a series of articles that covered why and how county government functions. We have covered the following three areas of county government and they were: The overall function of county government, the county judge’s responsibilities, and the county sheriff’s responsibilities.

This time we will cover the county clerk duties.

We will use the following definition from the publication “Introduction to County Government” by The Association of Arkansas, along with The County Financial Management System from Legislative Auditors.

As clerk of the county court, the clerk has the duty of keeping a regular account between the treasurer and the county.

The clerk charges the treasurer with all moneys received and credits the treasurer with all moneys dispersed. In addition, the clerk keeps an accurate account of all financial transactions within the county and files all documents, vouchers, and other papers pertaining to the settlement of any county to which the county is involved.

It is the responsibility of the county clerk to prepare all checks on the treasury of moneys ordered to be paid by the county court and to keep complete and accurate records of all these financial transactions ready for the court’s inspection at any time (ACA 13-20-402). An alternate method of the county treasurer issuing checks, allowed by ACA 14-24-204, is used by many counties.

The county clerk shall serve, unless otherwise designated by county ordinance, as the secretariat of the quorum court.

These duties involve keeping a complete permanent record of the proceedings of the quorum court including minutes, ordinances, resolutions and an index to provide easy access to the information (ACA 14-14-902 and 14-14-903).

The county clerk, or the clerk’s designee, serves as the secretary of the Board of Equalization and records the minutes of their meetings (ACA 26-27-307).

Also, if the preparer of tax books for the county, the clerk is responsible for extending the taxes in the information provided by the assessor and the Board of Equalization (ACA 26-28-101 through 26-28-108).

The clerk became the official voter registrar with the adoption of Amendment 51 to the Arkansas Constitution in 1966.

The clerk maintains an accurate and up-to-date voter registration list within the office and stores the ballot boxes between elections.

In addition, the clerk is the custodian of absentee ballots and is responsible for early voting.

It is common practice in many counties for the county clerk to assist the county election commission in the overall performance of the election process. With the increasing complexity of elections, however, there is an increasing trend towards the hiring of election coordinators to aid the county election commission and the county clerk in their respective election responsibilities. (ACA 7-5-401 et seq.)

The clerk issues marriage licenses (ACA 9-11-201) and keeps a record of all firms in the county which have incorporated (ACA 4-26-1201).

The clerk issues special licenses allowing certain activities (ACA 26-76-102).

Keeping healthy

Most recently, several citizens and myself have been attending seminars on Gov. Hutchison’s initiative for Healthy/Active Arkansas Communities.

This initiative was formed to help improve the overall health of the communities and improve to attract business to Arkansas.

We have formed a steering committee that has been working to form a local Van Buren County healthy/active community.

At 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 12, at the Clinton High School cafeteria, we will host Dr. Joe Thompson, former Arkansas Surgeon General and chairman of Healthy/Active Arkansas, as the kick-off speaker for our local initiative. Also, you will be updated on how Van Buren County ranks in the state and have a panel discussion on the many opportunities provided to improve your health in Van Buren County. Please mark your calendar and plan on attending!

Economic Happenings in Van Buren County

Concerning economic development one of the biggest single economic success stories in the last 15 years has been the expansion of our healthcare facilities. In 2001, the Van Buren County citizens voted on a bond to build a new hospital. With the success of the initial bond, another bond was voted on and passed in 2010 to expand the emergency room, outpatient, surgical, home health facilities, laboratory, and MRI machine.

Since it opened in 2004, the hospital has created over 100 additional jobs and an additional estimated 100 jobs with specialty clinics, pharmacies, and other home health facilities.

At the same time the old hospital buildings were converted to office space for most of county government. Along with providing space for Adult Education, Literacy Council, Experience Works, Workforce Training, Soil Conservation, FSA, State Police, Fire Marshall, Ozark Opportunities, and another courtroom.

I recently was given a brochure from Ozark Health Foundation of the “10 Big Things You Helped Us Achieve in 2016-2017” fiscal year. They are:$13,000,000 Community Economic Boost from Salaries

614 Surgeries

8,343 Emergency Room Visits

86 Nursing and Rehab Center Residents make their home at Ozark Health

7,100+ Hours donated by Auxiliary Board Members and Volunteers

1,056 Mammograms

19,862 Home Health Visits

1,044 MRI’s

5,693 Outpatient Visits

75,501 Laboratory Tests

I’m very proud of Van Buren County’s rural healthcare system and feel confident that this program will continue to grow.

We recently received a copy of the 2017 tourism results from Arkansas Parks & Tourism. The results are as follows:

2016 vs. 2017Travel generated dollars up 11.25 percent to $68 million

Travel generated payroll dollars up $1 million

Travel generated employment up 25 jobs

Travel generated local taxes up $200,000

Visitors (Person/Trip) up 20,000

The positive trend is a result of the hard work and dedication of many county-wide organizations. Thanks to all for their efforts.

The construction of the Highway 65 expansion from Bee Branch to Clinton is moving along at a fast pace. Also, the utilities are being moved for the next part of the Highway 65 expansion (Clinton to Botkinburg).

The following is the break - down of the new proposed schedule for the expansion of Hwy 65:Bee Branch to Clinton: Began: March 2018, Estimated to Complete: December 2019

Clinton to Botkinburg: Estimated to Begin: 2020, Estimated to Complete: 2022

Botkinburg to Dennard: Estimated to Begin: 2022, Estimated to Complete: 2024

I have been talking with several building supply companies and general home construction contractors in the county and all report that they are busy with renovation or new home construction. One reported that it is the most business that they have had in over 10 years.

These last few weeks, I have had the pleasure of being out in our county with spring budding the trees, especially the Dogwoods. We live in a beautiful part of God’s world. So some weekend, please take a drive in Van Buren County and enjoy the beauty!

Until next time, may God Bless you and your family.

Judge Roger Hooper