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County’s final plea denied in lawsuit

The Lonoke City Council was informed Monday night that the Lonoke County Quorum Court has been denied its final plea to appeal the City of Lonoke versus Lonoke County lawsuit.

After a two-year battle with Lonoke County, Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett said the Arkansas Supreme Court denied the appeal made by Lonoke County for a rehearing on Jan. 9.

“Hopefully we will be getting our money from the county,” Bennett said.

According to the legislative law change, effective Jan. 1, 2012, except as authorized otherwise, the county wherein a district court is held shall pay one half of the salaries of the district judge and each chief court clerk of any district court organized in the county. The quorum court in a county shall at its annual meeting make appropriation of a sum sufficient to pay the county’s proportion of the expenses of any such court. These payments shall be made out of the district court fund and general revenues of the county.

The Lonoke County Quorum Court approved the 2012 county budget during the Dec. 12, 2011, meeting by an 11-1 vote. With its interpretation of the a new law, the Quorum Court believed they were no longer required to make contributions to the district courts expenses. By its interpretation, the county has agreed to pay only half the judges, chief clerk and a secondary clerks salary.

The city believed the county’s interpretation was wrong because of a prior settlement made between Lonoke, Carlisle and Lonoke County. Previous agreements were made about salaries and expenditures of the district court after lawsuits were brought against Lonoke County by Lonoke and Carlisle in 1989 and the then again in 1999.

After the City of Lonoke won its original hearing in the Lonoke County Court system in November 2012, the county appealed the verdict to the court of appeals in January 2013. The suit was then handed over to the Arkansas Supreme Court in October 2013, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Lonoke on November 2013. The county then chose to file a petition for a rehearing on Dec. 2, 2013 which was denied by on Jan. 9, 2014.

Now that all final appeals have been made, the city has requested payment of $103,060.53 for unpaid debt as well as the upcoming 2014 year salaries. This includes the 2013 operating expenses of $16,281.33, which the county is bill for in 2014; $43,748.62 for the judge and clerks salaries for 2014; $43,030.58 for outstanding invoices from 2011, 2012 and 2013 .

In other city business, two new Dodge Chargers will soon be on patrol within the city. The council unanimously voted to finance two 2014 Dodge Chargers with a V6 engine, through Lonoke Banking Center, up to $48,394 with an interest rate of 3.25 percent. The cars cost a total of $24,799 each.

Chief of police Mike Wilson said the police department is in need of new vehicles. He said the two Chargers will actually be replacing three of the older cars. The vehicles were found through the state contract list, so taking bids was not necessary.

Because the cars are not fully furnished with cages and other items to make them street ready for officers, the council unanimously voted to make funds available to fully equip both vehicles.

According to Wilson, jail standards personnel suggested the police department offer some form of entertainment to prisoners during their stay in jail, through radio or television. He said he received a quote of $1,384 to mount two televisions in the cells. He said the quote includes cables, connectors, HD antenna, and an external on/off switch located outside the cell for officer access. The council unanimously voted to have the two televisions installed for $1,384.

In discussion, the council reviewed a water and sewer rate analysis sheet which included water and sewer rate increase. At this time a $1 minimum water increase would bring an additional $21,870.04 and a $1 minimum sewer rate increase would bring in an additional $21, 576.03. A $1 minimum water increase with an additional $0.50 per gallon exceeding the minimum of 1,000 gallons would bring an additional $76,331.51 and a $1 minimum sewer rate increase with an additional $0.50 per gallon exceeding the minimum of 1,000 gallons, would bring in an additional $75,630.89. For an increase $0.50 for any water exceeding the minimum of 1,000 gallons only, an additional $54,461.47 and an increase $0.50 for any sewer usage exceeding the minimum of 1,000 gallons only would bring an additional $54,054.86.

After making a motion to approve the increase minimum rates of $1 with an increase of $0.50 per gallon exceeding the minimum 1,000 on both water and sewer, Butler rescinded his motion. The council voted to table any action at this time.

Also during the meeting, the council unanimously voted to:

-Purchase cash registers and network switched for the concession stand at the ball field for $3,537.05

-Spend up to $3,500 to have the floors in the main hall of the community center stripped and refinished

-Rebid the Rosemary water department project

-Open bids for rehab manholes

-Approve the disposal of old and unused fire department items

-By ordinance, require independent candidates for municipal office to file petitions for nomination as independent candidates with the county board of election commissioners no later that noon the day prior to the preferential primary election

Janie Derning was absent from the meeting. The next Lonoke City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 10 at city hall.

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