The County Commission convened on Monday, June 3 in a regular monthly meeting that was postponed a week due to the Memorial Day Holiday. There were several items on the agenda, including an update from the District Attorney.
After the usual approval of the minutes, District Attorney Matthew F. Stowe addressed the Commission. He provided an update on recent raids that had been executed within the county and warned Commissioners that, while progress is being made, this was an ongoing fight with drug dealers. Stowe told Commissioners that a significant drug ring had been taken down through the cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. However, the DA warned that this was not the only serious drug influence in the county. General Stowe stated that operatives of a Mexican drug cartel were operating within this District and in Decatur County.
The District Attorney stated that he wanted to meet with the governing bodies in each of the counties in the district to stress the continued presence of dangerous criminals and the necessity to fund adequate law enforcement needs. He was concerned with the declining numbers of deputies in Decatur County being able to properly patrol and make solid arrests. Stowe was also concerned with the county’s ability to retain or hire experienced Sheriff deputies given the extremely low rate of pay.
With only 2 officers on patrol each shift (which is the current status), Gen. Stowe advised that the County could face liability issues if an officer was hurt or killed waiting on backup.
Stowe recommended that the Commission give serious consideration to these critical issues. While planning for the upcoming budget, General Stowe advised that the Commission should work to find the proper funding that has been requested by the Sheriff for personnel and equipment.
Decatur County has the lowest paid deputies of all the surrounding counties, for example:
Regular Deputy with 3-6 yrs experience:
Carroll Co - $15.63 / hour
Benton Co - $15.92 / hour
Decatur Co - $12.74 / hour
Henderson Co - $16.65 / hour
Perry Co - $17.00 / hour
Wayne Co. - 15.67/hour
Senior Deputy or Investigator - more than 6 yrs exp.:
Carroll Co - $18.95 / hour
Benton Co - $19.20 / hour
Decatur Co - $13.64 / hour
Henderson Co - $20.43 / hour
Perry Co - $18.32 / hour
Wayne Co - $17.00 / hour
The next item on the agenda was the confirmation and approval of an annual extension for the current grant contract which funds the Community Corrections Program. Decatur County is fortunate to have been chosen several years ago as the seat of this state program for Judicial District 24. The State grant awards $504,776.00 to the County for operating this program.
Next, an updated resolution was approved in order to reimburse the county for the Solid Waste Truck purchased earlier this year.
The Commission was required to go into Executive Session to be briefed on the status of ongoing litigation. After this, the Commissioners were updated by Progressive Health CEO, Greg Buckley.
Mr. Buckley asked that the Commission agree to extend the management agreement from a 2-year to a 3-year agreement. As this change will not affect the pay-off of the purchase of the hospital, the Commission agreed to the idea and empowered Mayor Creasy and our attorneys to negotiate new terms. The Commission will need to approve the final amended agreement after such discussions.
The Civic Center Building/Gym – extensive mold, mildew throughout the building; ruined ceilings, walls and flooring due to roof leaks; air conditioning units not functioning properly with most needing replacement; bathroom facilities not properly functioning, etc.
Children’s Playground – structures are broken, rusted and unusable;
The Fairgrounds Building – air-conditioning units are not working and need replacement; upgrades are needed for bathroom and kitchen facilities, etc.
The Courthouse – the Basement level is deteriorating with cracks in the walls; mold and mildew are prevalent in the basement (ex. this caused the DA staff to move out and find better/healthier office space); plumbing and sewer needs updates/reconstruction (it often smells so strong that workers have to leave); wiring is inadequate causing dangerous use of extension cords throughout building; etc.
EMA Director Andrew Sparks, who also serves as the County’s Title 7 Coordinator reported that it was time to update the county's program. Title 7 compliance deals with Equal Opportunity, Non-Discrimination, etc. Each year, all state and local government employees must be refreshed on the types of issues that are governed under this federal act. Our County’s policy has been updated and will be issued to each department. Training is available online via video, or in person by Mr. Sparks.
EMA Director Andrew Sparks, who also serves as the County’s Safety/OSHA Director, informed the Commission that the county was required to update the Occupational Safety & Health (OSHA) program. This entails inspection of every county-owned building and making the necessary repairs, modifications or changes which will bring the buildings into compliance.
Given the state of several of our buildings, your Commissioner is very concerned with the associated costs we will have to incur to become compliant. While I am not certain to the state of all of our properties, the Mayor has shown us the following serious issues:
In Other Business, Commissioner Shirley Kelley asked the Commission to revisit the issue of the proposed County Fire Coordinator/Flood Plain Manager position which was voted down at the past meeting. After realizing the importance of filling these positions and understanding no additional money was required, the Commission voted to approve the position. Commissioner David Whitaker (7th District) has been named by Mayor Creasy to fill this position. Whitaker has resigned as Commissioner in order to take this job. A new Commissioner will need to be appointed.
Funding transfers and amendments were approved as follows:
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