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Hempstead County Quorum Court

By Natalie Hood, 12/5/17 2:19 PM

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The Hempstead County Quorum Court met Monday December 4th for their monthly meeting. The first part of the meeting was focused on the proposed budget for 2018. Budget Chairman Ed Darling led this part of the meeting. Darling noted despite there being an increase of several hundred thousand dollars in the proposed budget but still a surplus of $3.5 million dollars. Darling also noted there is a raise in the budget for county employees. He noted in a number of jobs, Hempstead County’s salaries are among the lowest in the state. Cherry Stewart asked if the county is working towards getting their employees closer to the state average. Budget Committee member Jessie Henry noted the county has only been in good shape for the past few years. Stewart said it was “appalling” that our employees are among the lowest paid in the state. Several members noted the more affluent counties are the ones who pay more. The JP’S then voted to retain the raises in the proposed budget.
Darling went over the requests from the various departments. He noted the County Clerk had asked for more money for software as has the Circuit Clerk. Darling noted the Treasurer’s office has requested a new copier. In the Assessor’s office, there was a request to do mapping in-house. He also noted the elections budget is up in part due to salaries and also a state mandate that the county buy new voting machines. In the Sheriff’s budget there is a request for two additional deputies. Darling said this is a matter of public safety as at times there is only one deputy on duty for the whole county. Darling noted the various court judges are asking for $3,500 to $11,000 more each. There was some discussion on some funding in the prosecutor’s office. Darling noted the Office of Emergency Services needs to replace some some. equipment and supplies that are outdated. There was discussion on the solid waste anticipated revenue. This issue was solved by taking some money out of the vehicular expense. There was also discussion on getting the counties that benefit from the Veterans Service Van to chip in some money. The JP’S also looked at the road budget and noted the anticipated revenue was down. It was noted about $2 million dollars in road department reserves have been used over the last few years. Darling said the use of road department reserves is progressing at an unsustainable rate. There was further discussion on leasing equipment. Ultimately there were some changes on the proposed budget on the road department.
After going through the rest of the budget, Cherry Stewart made a motion to approve the budget but Lynn Montgomery suggested they hold off passing the budget until written copies of the budget with the changes are available. The motion had a second and the roll call was underway when Blake Montgomery, from the audience, asked what the changes were. County Clerk Karen Smith then went over them. Smith finished the roll call and the motion failed. The budget meeting then adjourned.
Upon convening the regular meeting, Ed Darling talked about the proposed agreement to buy Farmers Bank to serve as a Courthouse. Darling said the proposal was for the a purchase of the bank for $1.5 million and a there was a separate agreement to lease the building to Farmers for 18 months. JP Lynn Montgomery had questions. He wanted to know why there was the proposal for a special warranty deed as opposed to a general warranty deed. Bruce Maloch of Farmers said he felt Montgomery’s issues could be solved and the matter taken up at a special meeting next Monday. The meeting then adjourned.