Columbia County Jail hires 2 new jailers, facility still needs 3 more; County JPs approve appointments to County Library, Equalization Boards : KZHE News Blog
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Columbia County Jail hires 2 new jailers, facility still needs 3 more; County JPs approve appointments to County Library, Equalization Boards

by J.D. Bailey on 04/05/22

The Columbia County Quorum Court this week discussed a variety of topics and passed a number of resolutions pertaining to local affairs. The subjects ranged from personnel at the Columbia County Detention Center, then pivoted to appointments on local government and public facility boards.

Business discussed this week included the following:


COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE 


Columbia County Justice of the Peace Rick Waller on Monday announced that the Columbia County Detention Center center had recently hired two new jailers. The facility was in need to even more personnel, according to the JP, but the inmate center has just brought on two new staff members to help fill the voids.

“We’re down three jailers now, but we were down five,” he said.

In another bit of good news for the jail, Waller, who heads the Quorum Court’s Jail Committee, stated Monday that the Arkansas State Legislature recently increased the amount paid per inmate housed -- from $32 to $40. In a separate announcement, the committee chairman noted that each full-time law enforcement will now receive a one-time bonus payment of $5,000.

“This will be just a single occurrence,” said Waller.

The one-time bonus, however, does not apply to the newly-hired jailers at the Columbia County Detention Center. Since the employees are not considered certified law enforcement officers, jailers are not included in the state payment program. Their annual salary is approximately $32,000, according to Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe.

On the vehicle side of the agency, CCSO is looking to now rejuvenate older patrol vehicles instead of purchasing new ones. The price and availability of new stock during a global automobile shortage have both contributed to the new approach.

“We’re going to try to refurbish some vehicles,” Waller said. “We’ll be looking at new engines, new transmissions, etc., because new vehicles are over $35,000 now.”

The price for new patrol vehicles only a year ago was around $29,000, according to a county department report issued last month.

Inflated fuel costs are also a concern for the Sheriff’s Office. With local regular unleaded costs hovering around $4 per gallon, fuel costs have almost doubled over last year, when, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average gallon of gasoline in Arkansas was about $2.65. Since April 2020, when gasoline averaged $1.53 in the state as lower demand hit amid coronavirus fears, fuel costs are up almost $2.50 per gallon, or about 161%.

“Everything is going up, so we’ve just got to try to do the best we can,” said Waller.

To apply for positions with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, call 870-234-5331.


BOARD APPOINTMENTS

Columbia County Library


Magnolia resident Tommy Fallin, Sr. was appointed unanimously approved as a new member of the Columbia County Library Board. The longtime local businessman will replace outgoing board member Mike Epley, who recently resigned from his seat on the county panel, had been a part of the group since 2019.

Fallin’s appointment began immediately upon passage Monday evening. His term is set to expire on May 31, 2024.

The Columbia County Library Board oversees and approves major decisions in the local library system.

The 2057 N. Jackson library in Magnolia lends out books, DVDs, and periodicals to around 25,000 local residents at no charge. Its collection includes over 140,000 volumes and circulates approximately 79,000 items per year, according to Library.org., an online national public library information source. The public building also provides free internet access, as well as educational sessions and programs for children and adults, and contains information on Columbia County history and genealogy.

The Columbia County Library is funded, in part, via a 1-mill tax on county property owners.


Columbia County Equalization Board


Two appointments to the Columbia County Equalization Board were approved Monday. The first approval came as William Smith, a sitting board member, was re-appointed to the local panel. His new term will last five years, according to the resolution passed this week by the Columbia County Quorum Court.

The other appointment by Quorum Court this week saw Debbie Neill approved as a new appointment on the equalization board. Both decisions were unanimous among the present Justices of the Peace.

Columbia County Equalization Board consists of five members. They are appointed via a majority vote from the Quorum Court.

The Columbia County Equalization Board was created in 1955 upon the passage of Arkansas Act 230. State code notes that board members should consist of local real estate owners familiar with county property values. Once appointed, equalization board members serve five-year terms as “qualified electors” on the panel.

The primary duties of the equalization board, according to the Arkansas Assessment Coordination Division, includes reviewing assessment values placed on local properties by the county assessor, as well as serving as an appeals panel for local property owner disputes on certain assessments.

In other Columbia County News: 


- Jerri Lephiew, the agricultural agent at the Columbia County Cooperative Extension Service, announced Monday that she had taken a similar position in Lafayette County, and that she would be vacating her post in Magnolia on April 16. The longtime local University of Arkansas Division of Agricultural and Research Extension employee this week thanked Columbia County Quorum Court members for their support of her office over the years.

“They’ve had some transition over there, and I have accepted their offer,” she said. “… I appreciate everyone (in Columbia County), and I appreciate my time here.”

The process to find a new agent in Columbia County is already underway, according to Lephiew.

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