HOPE- (Story by Mark Keith) The Hempstead County Quorum Court met Thursday January 25th at the Hempstead County Courthouse. The JP’S went right into old business. The first thing was comp time. The county has often compensated county employees with comp time rather than Pat them money. The JP considered an ordinance which would pay employees overtime when they are called out on an emergency. Part of the reason this has come forward is the state will not allow employees to carry over comp time into a new year. Sheriff Singleton noted he can’t pay his but the ordinance would cover that. The JP’S voted to suspend the rules and invoke the emergency clause. The ordinance passed unanimously. The JP’S voted to move $20,000 out of Quorum Court miscellaneous to set up the overtime line item in the budget. The JP’s then looked at an ordinance to pay approximately $76,000 in outstanding comp time. It was suggested by JP Lynn Montgomery to hold off on paying the comp time as the county only has about $360,000 in county general. The Quorum Court voted to allow the county employees to use their comp time between now and November and to pay the remaining comp time by the end of November.
The JP’s looked at a hot check report. No action was taken.
Treasurer Judy Lee Flowers reported she bought her new copier.
Treasurer Judy Lee clarified the county’s status on paying sales tax.
Former County Agent Steven Sheets addressed the JP’s. He said some people were there because they had heard the JP’s were going to defund the Extension Service. Sheets also detailed a tense working environment and also discussed some United Way issues. He also accused the staff chair of not funding any Ag related programs. Sheets also talked about the 4-H program. JP Cherry Stewart said she had called the county judge’s association and it is her understanding the Quorum Court has no jurisdiction over Sheets’ employee. Stewart suggested that Sheets bring his concerns to the Extension Service. Farmer Dean McDonald asked if concerned farmers should call the U of A Extension Service. Sheets said there will not be an Extension program until the problems within Extension are solved. District Extension Director Beth Phelps spoke and said she couldn’t say much about Sheets’s termination since it was personnel. She said the termination decision came from her boss and was not made lightly. JP Lynn Montgomery said the only part of Extension that helps generate income is agriculture. Phelps said there are other programs that help generate funds such as programs that help child care professionals obtain licensing. She also noted they are helping with downtown revitalization efforts in Hope. Phelps said she had planned to post the position but couldn’t because funding had been cut. Several farmers indicated they wanted Sheets reinstated. Judge Morse reminded speakers that all the county can only control funding and not personnel. Phelps also detailed the current 4-H program and the Expanded Food and Nutrition programs. There were questions as to why the Extension Service didn’t go ahead and fill the job despite the cut in funds. Local resident Blake Montgomery suggested the county could consider pulling out of the Extension program and hire their own Ag agent. JP David Clayton asked Phelps if Extension would rehire Sheets under any circumstances and Phelps said Extension would not. JP Cherry Stewart said she appreciated the constituents coming to the meeting but by the JP’S, by cutting the budget, had opened a can of worms. Stewart said she’s sorry but the Quorum Court really can’t do anything about the matter. JP Ed Darling asked Phelps to send the Quorum Court their Hempstead County budget and she said she would. JP David Clayton said the JP’s cut the budget to get the U of A Extension program’s attention and apparently they had their attention. The JP’S then voted to adjourn.