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JP resigns from quorum court

Without an agenda other than routine approval of minutes and reports, the Jan. 16 Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting was primarily informational. However, the one official act was hearing the resignation of one of the justices of the peace.

There was also discussion on settlement of the lawsuit, regarding district court funding, brought against the county by the cities of Lonoke and Carlisle. The court also was given an overview of the Lonoke/Prairie County Library System.

County Judge Doug Erwin and justices of the peace Brent Canon, B.J Weathers, Henry Lang, Darrin Waymack, Lee Linville, Adam Sims, Michael Verkler, Roger Lynch, Bill Ryker, Mike Dolan, Matt Sanders and Larry Odom attended the meeting. Tim Lemons was absent.

Sims, the district 7 Justice of the Peace, presented a letter of resignation to Erwin. Speaking to the court, Sims said medical treatments he is undergoing have prevented him from coming to a number of meetings in the past year. “I have not been able to represent my district in the manner it needs to be represented.”

Between his health care and family’s needs, “I don’t see me being able to give the time and resources needed to my district,” Sims said. The resignation would be effective with the end of the meeting, he said.

Procedure is for the County Judge to notify Gov. Mike Beebe of a vacancy; Beebe would then appoint someone to fill the remainder of Sims’ term.

In the lawsuit settlement, county attorney Geoff Thompson said he is meeting with attorneys for Carlisle and Lonoke to determine an amount due the cities. “We are in the process of going back to the 1991 agreement, making sure we know the numbers,” he said.

Thompson said it could take another week “to get to the numbers.”

Full payment is yet to be determined, Thompson said. Some payments have already been made.

County clerk Larry Clark said there would likely be an appropriation required, “But I don’t think it will be much.”

Deborah Moore, Lonoke/Prairie County Regional Library director, gave an overview of the work of the libraries.

The Lonoke library was established in 1937 in a combined effort by the Friends of the Library, a book club at Lonoke, and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Moore said. Libraries were opened at Lonoke, Cabot, Carlisle and England.

However, when federal funds ended about a year later, only Lonoke’s library remained, she said. “So, [Lonoke] library has been open since 1937.”

Moore said she has applied for a state grant to finance the furnishings for the children’s library at Cabot. The funds would come from $141,000 turned over to the state library system for distribution to local libraries. “Seventy-two libraries have applied for over $1 million in grants … so any grant we get will be more than we had before,” Moore said.

There are five branch libraries in Lonoke County, annual budget is $1.36 million; 17 full-time employees, 10 part time; 215,299 items that may be checked out; there are about 12,000 digital volumes in the total.

The e-books are a small, but rapidly growing, part of the inventory, Moore said. “I predict that within 10 years, e-book circulation will be half of our circulation,” she said.

The circulation statistics prove that the library is growing every year, Moore said. Historically, libraries have grown during recessions and recent statistics tend to bear that up, she said.

In 2009, probably the peak of the recession, circulation was more than 423,000. The pace “leveled off” after that, but is now on the rise again, Moore said. “I think that speaks for our system.”

Moore introduced each of the librarians who manage the branch libraries: Shirley McGraw, Lonoke; Nan Palmer, England; Lynette Ward, Carlisle; Vanessa Ford, Ward; Jessica Lynch, Cabot.

Moore said two children’s director positions have been created, with Denise Howard at Cabot, and Vickie Lynch at Lonoke. “We are trying to partner with our schools; we want to be an integral part of our school system,” she said.

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