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Gilstrap to remain with emergency management

Crawford County officials are debating a proposed new job position for the current director of Crawford County Emergency Management.

Justices of the Peace voted 7-5 against funding a new deputy administrator position during the Crawford County Quorum Court Budget Committee meeting Monday night.

Crawford County Judge John Hall proposed the new position, to be filled by Dennis Gilstrap, director of Crawford County Emergency Management.

If passed, Gilstrap’s duties in that position would have included assisting Hall in overseeing the construction of the new county detention center, set for groundbreaking after Jan. 1, while retaining many of his current duties with emergency management and the county road department.

JP Carrie Jernigan was one of those who voted against the proposal.

“I voted basically against it, because right now I do not feel it’s the right time,” Jernigan said.

During an interview on Thursday, Jernigan said there are several reasons why she opposed the new position.

Jernigan called the description of the job supplied with the JP packets for Monday’s meeting “vague,” and was not happy with funding for the position.

Gilstrap currently earns $32,958 annually, while the administrator position would pay $35,318.33.

Money to pay the salary and benefits for the new position would have come in part from the county general fund and in part from the road department. The emergency management director position would have been reduced in responsibility and salary.

With construction not yet begun on the jail, Jernigan said she did not see the need for a new full-time position.

During the Monday meeting, Jernigan called for the position to be changed to part-time and then be reevaluated at the beginning of the year.

Hall refused that suggestion, noting that Gilstrap would have to vacate his current position to accept the administrator job.

On Wednesday, Hall sent an email to JPs stating that Gilstrap is no long interested in the administrator position.

“He has worked hard and has gained the respect of his peers over the years and has chosen not to leave his position,” Hall wrote in the email. “The Road Department will not fund any future positions for the jail. I am open to suggestions for help to build this facility.”

Hall also turned down an idea by several JPs during the Monday meeting to pay for the position through jail tax revenue, as he said that would legally bind Gilstrap to handling only jail-related duties.

Recently elected as the 2015 president for the Arkansas Emergency Management Association, Gilstrap said it is important that he continues to work with emergency management.

“I can’t be president of the Arkansas Emergency Management Association if my job duties do not include emergency management,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap also cited his efforts in bringing about the construction of the new Pevehouse Bridge as a reason for him to remain working with emergency management.

“It’s a million dollar bridge that I worked with a lot of people to get the grant, and I want to be involved in the construction,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap already has taken on the duties of overseeing the new county road regulations, and supervises the county’s flood plain and storm water runoff.

“It’s not legal for me to do that if I’m only getting paid out of the jail tax money,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap refuted Jernigan’s suggestion that someone is not needed to supervise the jail construction until the beginning of the year.

In his opinion, someone should already have been in place to oversee environmental testing for the proposed jail location, he said.

“There’s more to building a jail than the actual construction,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap said he appreciates the confidence the county judge has shown in his abilities and will continue to support Hall in upcoming county projects.

As of now, a Personnel Committee meeting to discuss the administrator position is planned for Monday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at Circuit Courtroom No. 2, 220 S. Fourth St.

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