The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will assume responsibility for cutting grass along the county’s roadways after the Quorum Court approved an ordinance to permit the activity on Aug. 13.
Without dissent, the county’s legislative body agreed to County Judge Booker Clemons signing a memorandum of understanding with the Sheriff’s Office to perform the work through Oct. 1 of this year, and from April 1 to Oct. 31 next year.
During the meeting, Sheriff Gerald Robinson said the work would be performed by members of the Clean Team — people who are working off fines from district court. They will work eight hours a day, five days a week, and the Sheriff’s Office will be paid $35 per hour for performing the work.
“Instead of paying $150,000 to get the grass cut, we’re going to use detainee labor and keep the money in the county,” Robinson said. He was referring to private contractors who were paid to cut grass, particularly in the areas across the Arkansas River in 2017.
Robinson said that in 2017, the county was paying $65 per hour for the work over a nine-month period and this year will be paying $35 per hour.
Asked by Justice of the Peace Dr. Herman Ginger where the equipment to cut the grass will come from, Robinson said the Sheriff’s Office already has lawn mowers and weed eaters and will also use some equipment belonging to the county Road Department, whose budget the payments will come from.
Robinson also said that regardless of the number of people who are working, the county will be billed only the agreed-upon figure of $35 per hour.
Also on Aug. 13, the county’s legislative body approved increasing the amount the Watson Chapel Water Association is being paid to collect sanitation and garbage collection fees for persons served by Watson Chapel Water. The fee sanitation and garbage collections will increase from .79 cents per month to $1.25 per month, or an increase of .46 cents for each. The new rates are effective immediately.
The county’s legislative body also approved the reappointment of four members of the Economic Development Corp., whose terms had expired.
George Makris Jr. and Scott McGeorge were reappointed to five-year terms on what is commonly known as the Tax Board, with their terms to expire May 9, 2023. Eugene Hunt and Glenn Barnes Sr. were reappointed to five-year terms to expire May 9, 2022.
With justices of the peace Reginald Adams, Mandy Alford and Morris Caldwell absent, the Quorum Court voted 9-1 to approve appropriation ordinances to allow the county clerk, tax collector and prosecutor to replace vehicles. Dr. Conley Byrd cast the only no vote on each of the three ordinances.
County Clerk Shawandra Taggart is planning to replace the 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer that is assigned to her office with a 2017 Nissan Rogue at a cost of $16,629. She said in a letter to Clemons that the old vehicle has more than 100,000 miles on it. Funding for the vehicle and an additional $4,200 to pay for telephone and fax service through the end of the year will come from the County Clerk Cost Fund.
County Treasurer Vonysha Goodwin will be replacing a 2010 Ford Explorer with 60,873 miles on it with a 2018 Chevrolet Equinox at a cost of $16,929. The funding for the vehicle will come from the Treasurer’s Automation Fund.
Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter will be replacing a Ford Taurus that is used by his investigator Larry Plunkett with a 2017 Hyundai Sonata. The Ford was declared a total loss as a result of the spring hail storm. The Taurus and a Mercury Marquis that Hunter uses were both damaged, but Hunter said in a letter to Clemons he will continue to drive the Mercury and use the insurance receipts, plus $8,235 from funds he has available in his office, to pay for the Sonata.