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Information presentation planned for quorum court meeting

Crawford County residents will be updated on county-wide issues and projects during an informational presentation at the quorum court meeting Monday, Jan. 20.

County Judge John Hall plans to inform the public of county happenings during the judges notes of the Crawford County Quorum Court meeting, set for 7 p.m. at the Crawford County Circuit Courtroom No. 2, 220 S. Fourth St., in Van Buren.

Hall will give a 10-15 minute presentation, then have a short question and answer session with justices of the peace, he said.

“If the JPs want to ask any questions about what’s going on or they have a statement about something they want to see going on, it will be a good time at the start of the new year to bring out these ideas,” Hall said.

Hall has about nine different topics he wants to cover during the presentation, including road and bridge projects, the county budget and insurance, county-wide storm warning sirens, salaries and employee numbers, early voting polls and of course, the possible new detention center.

Hall heads up the road department, and said bids will be put out in March for the replacement of the Pevehouse Road Bridge, with construction expected to last the summer. Sherman Creek Bridge, a low-water bridge north of Mulberry, also will be replaced this year, he said.

Hall also wants to “have a frank discussion” with JPs regarding the county’s budget, he said.

Crawford County is facing future budget issues as income has leveled off because property values are no longer appreciating, but costs continue to rise, he said.

“The only way you can save money is by cutting employees,” Hall said. “Other counties are doing it right now. We are going to be in that same boat if something doesn’t change.”

Other financial issues for the county, Hall said, include salaries and insurance.

“We are locked into a salary scale with step raises that are so large that we can’t do it,” Hall said. Hall would prefer the county switched to percentage raises, he said, which are more manageable.

Insurance deductibles on county healthcare are increasing, and Hall is interested in switching county employees that are retirement age - himself included - to Medicare, he said.

Though Hall said they may be one of the healthiest groups on the healthcare plan, the number of seniors using it is driving up the costs for the county.

Costs for maintaining the county-wide storm warning siren system also must be taken up, at least in part, by the county.

Crawford County received a $500,000 state grant in 1996 after a tornado struck the area to purchase the siren system, with $100,000 left to maintain it over the years.

Now, the maintenance money is about to run out and the county has an 18-year-old system in need of updates and repairs, Hall said. It costs about $20,000 a year to maintain the 22 sirens, but area cities may help take up the costs, he said.

Hall also will discuss plans to move early voting to the Crawford County Emergency Operations Center in Van Buren. There would be 10 voting polls and 60 parking spaces available to residents, he said.

“We will try to make sure you never have to stand in line more than 10 minutes,” Hall said.

Hall will speak briefly on the jail issue, which will be under discussion by JPs during the meeting.

CCQC members are expected to come to a decision on an architect and tax issue regarding the construction of a new county jail to put forward for approval at the February meeting, Hall said.

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