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Financial problems plague county

By Staff, 07/14/21 10:00 AM

PRESCOTT – Following a public hearing concerning the Oak Grove Community Center, members of the Nevada County Quorum Court were told of financial problems the county is facing.

This was at the court’s July meeting Tuesday. The court voted to approve the county being administrator for the $75,000 grant the community is applying for, noting $7,500 in matching funds has been raised.

Following this, though, Glenda Stewart asked about using CARES Act money to do road repair in her area. She told the court she lives on a paved road, but the potholes are so bad they’ve damaged a tire and muffler on her vehicle. Justice of the Peace Bob Cummings said now that it’s quit raining road crews are working four 10-hour days to catch up. He added paved roads are the worst to maintain.

County Judge Mark Glass chimed in saying the county has been holding some bills, asking County Clerk Julie Oliver to explain.

Oliver said the county has been unable to pay the jail’s bills for more than a month and owes $35,000. She told the court the county has been able to make payroll but hasn’t had the money for the county’s portion of the match. Oliver continued saying all bills from the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) have been held since April with the county owing $60,000 in worker’s compensation. The county, she said, needs to use the CARES money for this, adding $10,000 is owed for food for the jail.

The county, she continued, has the money to pay the bills for solid waste and the road and bridge department, but won’t be able to make payroll.

Cummings said the county has $363,000 in CARES funds and suggested using $60,000 to pay for worker’s comp and give $40,000 to the jail while putting $100,000 in a certificate of deposit and $100,000 in the road and bridge budget with the rest to be divided. It was pointed out solid waste can use money from trash collection, which has $130,000 in that account.

JP Pat Grimes asked why the county’s been spending money like it has if it can’t pay the bills. She also asked why the court was only finding out about the problem at this time. She pointed out the county was denied $30,800 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for improper bidding, but gave bonuses to employees last month when something should have been done for the jail.

Oliver said the county wasn’t in this shape last month and her office just got a bill reminding her of the worker’s comp. She told the court she put off thinking about it till things get better.

Cummings said the county is within two months of tax time and things always get tight this time of year.

Oliver did a reversal, telling the court all bills but the jail have been paid, and funds from county general can be used if necessary.

Glass said the jail and road and bridge are the two departments having financial problems.

It was agreed the budget committee should meet and find out what’s going on. The panel will meet at 6 p.m. on July 26 to go over the county budget. A special called meeting will be held after the budget committee meets to discuss its findings.

The court agreed to use $60,000 to pay the AAC,  put $40,000 in the jail budget and have a special meeting.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, said the county hasn’t paid the city the $80,000 it owes for dispatcher salaries. Oliver said the auditors have said the county doesn’t have to pay for dispatchers, but agreed to double check this.

Cummings pointed out the county pays the city a lot it doesn’t get reimbursed for. He told the court COVID is coming back hard and he looks for the governor to do something about it, which could be costly for the county.

Glass told the court a county road department employee recently lost his wife to complications from COVID.

Hayley Rice updated the court on 4-H activities. She said two summer camps have been held, one was for crafts with 15 children, and one was a livestock show with more than 20 children involved. Two members competed in the District 4-H O’rama, one winning in the BB gun competition and qualifying for state and the other finishing second in livestock stills.