The Hope City Board opened their first meeting of September on the first day of the month by naming several of the facilities at Northside Park after some of the early contributors at the park. The proposal was to name the Northside Community Center after E. D. Douglas, the late President of the Hope Civic Improvement Association and the late Secretary Harvey Washington. The proposal was also to install a plaque within the community center commemorating the officers of the organization and also a plaque honoring Dr. Roscoe Smith who was park director when the historic swimming pool was built in the park. City Director Willie Walker and Hazel Simpson made heartfelt statements about the history of the park. Mayor Ramsey praised the contributions of Director Walker in the activities of the park. George Straughter’s contributions were also noted. Straughter was present and offered some comments about Walker’s history with the park. The board voted to add the plaques and rename the community center. Walker also called for some possible improvements from the state to the portion of the bypass that borders the park. The board voted to accept the “STEP” grant for the police department of $ 25,700. The department has also received a grant for $3,500 for purchase of child safety seats and this was approved as well. The board voted to grant a a conservation easement to the Arkansas Department of Heritage. The department has awarded a grant of $40,000 to begin Preservation of the historic Girl Scout Log Hut in Fair Park. The board got an update on the highway 278 Interceptor project. Kiamichi Railroad is negotiating with the city to have liability insurance to work on and put a line under the railroad. City Manager Catherine Cook said this could cancel the city’s tort immunity. Instead they hope to get the railroad to agree to require the contractor to provide the insurance. The board also discussed paying Kiamichi $ 800 a year or $ 20,000 one time for the city to have their infrastructure on the the railroad right of way. It was agreed to have the City Manager to call Kiamichi to negotiate on the matter and to take the matter up at a future meeting. The board voted to accept the low bid of $ 41,591 for a new leaf vacuum from Henard Utility Products of Little Rock. The board approved an audit resolution which approves the method in which they present their financial statements. Under the city manager’s report, Catherine Cook gave an update on hiring a new landfill Superintendent. Hopefully a new person will be hired soon. The board voted to move the September 15th board meeting to September 22nd. The board discussed the Emerald Village Development. The developers asked if the city could help in replacing the sewer line on the property. The mayor thought the city should help. The board voted to waive the sewer equipment fee which would cover about half the line replacement.
The following is a letter from Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton:
Dear Citizens of Hempstead County,
August 24, 2015
The following is a letter I sent to the Hempstead County Quorum Court on April 25, 2014. I was seeking funding to increase the salaries of our deputies.
As of this date deputies have received no consideration in raising salaries, this has resulted in losing very well trained, professional deputies to other Law Enforcement Agencies and the private sector. This causes a constant revolving door at the counties expense your (TAXPAYERS) expense.
Hempstead County Deputies make $24,700.00 per year, no matter if they have worked 10 days or ten years. I conducted a survey of the 10 Southwest Arkansas Counties that surround Hempstead County. Hempstead County deputies are the lowest paid in the 10 counties surveyed.
I am told that there is no funds available for any type of raises, I like you am against any new taxes being forced upon us. However, An Attorney General’s opinion in 1994 gives the Quorum Court authority to establish a Voluntary Tax for a specific purpose. Ie; Public safety, Deputies salaries.
A Voluntary tax is a tax that is strictly voluntary, which means if you want to pay it you can if you don’t you don’t have to.
How the voluntary tax would work if approved by the Quorum Court would be as follows.
If approved a $10.00 voluntary tax would be added to each tax statement mailed out by the collector. When you pay your taxes you could choose to accept the tax or choose not to pay the tax. If you choose to accept the tax, the money from the tax would go into a fund which could only be used to help fund deputies salaries.
The Collector sends out approximately 14,000.00 tax statements a year which could raise about $140,000.00 a year if everyone chose to pay the tax. I know everyone will not choose to pay the tax and that is ok, but the people who do choose to accept the tax could help fund our deputies raises.
I need your help, the deputies need your help with this very important public safety issue.
I put to you the citizens of Hempstead County this question.
Would you as a taxpayer of Hempstead County support a voluntary tax to help fund Deputies Salaries?
April 25, 2014
To: The Honorable Members of the Hempstead County Quorum Court
From: Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton
RE: Deputies Salary
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I write as a matter of concern I have for the deputies in my administration and the safety of the citizens of our county over what seems to be a never ending battle to keep well trained professional deputies.
During the last two weeks I have lost two very well trained and experienced deputies one with seven years of experience and training, and the other a 4 year veteran officer who also very well trained. Both deputies expressed regret of leaving but felt like it was best financially for their families. One was lost to the private sector and one to the Hope Police Department.
Today I had two veteran Deputies tell me they were leaving, one for the Hope Police Department, and one to the private sector once again the sole reason was a financial one.
As you may be aware this has been and continues to be a problem we hire a deputy, equip, and train them then another agency hires them for a higher salary. We occupy the same building as the Hope Police Department and it’s very easy for a certified deputy to just walk across the hall and increase his salary by $9,379.00. The city wins out because they were not out any money to train the deputy. The same applies to the Howard County Sheriff’s Office the deputies pay at Howard County is $6,348.00 more than Hempstead County. Columbia County pays its deputies $7,927 more, Miller County $5,067, Sevier County $6,890, Nevada County $1,060.00.
The Current salary of a Hempstead County Deputy is $24,700.00 there are no step/Longivity increases the only way to increase that salary is certificate pay which was approved by the court in 2011. And that takes at least three years to be eligible to receive the first certificate. For example when a prospective applicant comes in for an interview I tell them the salary is $24,700.00 with no chance of an increase unless everyone in the county gets an increase which has as long as I have worked for the county been true.
When we do hire a deputy there are expenses before the person ever works a single day such as a Physical and Psychological examination which cost’s approximately $300.00, Then once hired the costs of uniforms at $1,300.00, a ballistic vest at $750.00, Three month’s salary while at the academy $6,175.00 and another month of ride along after the academy before the new hire can be put out on his own.
That’s $8,525.00 that the county is out before the new hire works on his own and not having another deputy tied up training him.
We have lost Seven (7) Deputies since 2010 solely because of pay, Each and every deputy that has tendered their resignation since 2010 has done so because they bettered themselves and their family financially. Before leaving they each expressed regret on having to leave, but because there was not any sign of raises to come they felt that could not wait any longer. We lost certified experienced deputies with valuable training that will take time to replace and yes money. It has cost the County approximately $69, 675.00 for uniforms, training, and equipment not to mention the dedication and experience that was lost when those deputies moved on. You cannot replace experience with inexperience and expect to have the quality of service that the citizens demand.
As you are aware Certified Law Enforcement Officers (Deputy Sheriffs) face an enormous amount of danger when they report for work. Deputies work Holidays, weekends, and nights, we can’t and don’t shut the doors and go home when weather gets bad and the roads are dangerous, instead Deputies are out there putting themselves in harm’s way to protect and respond to calls and keep the citizens updated and informed about situations harmful to their safety.
Deputies have to be well trained and equipped to properly do a professional job and keep the county safe and from being sued. The days of hiring a person and throwing them the keys to the patrol car is over. Today’s Deputies have to be trained in a variety things not only law enforcement. I realize that we can never compete with state agencies or larger agencies but it is time we quit wasting the taxpayer’s money and at least get a competitive salary for our deputies.
No matter how loyal of an employee they are they are always going to choose the financial wellbeing their family when they can. When this happens the county not only has lost the time and money put into training and equipping the deputy it loses the experience of that officer.
I am not saying give a raise to equal what the City pays that is not feasible, but a substantial increase and a step/ Longevity plan to at least give them something to work toward. And help keep the people we pay to train working for Hempstead County not train someone at the expense of the county to work for another agency.
I want the members of the Court to Understand I, as the Elected Sheriff am not seeking a pay increase I want to concentrate solely on the Deputies and Jailers
James A. Singleton, Sheriff
Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation establishes the Wesley Woodard Economic Development Memorial Endowed Scholarship
PICTURED LEFT TO RIGHT: U of A Hope-Texarkana Foundation Director Jill Bobo receives check form HCEDC Board members Dr. Lester Sitzes III and Chris Thomason.
The Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation announced this week the establishment of the Wesley Woodard Economic Development Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Woodard served as the Executive Director for HCEDC from 2005 until his passing in 2015. Woodard was a graduate from Henderson State University and a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. His professional life was marked by service, protection, and improving the quality of life of those around him. Through the Arkansas Work Force Center, he provided assistance with unemployment benefits and job training to numerous people. Most recently, with the Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation, he facilitated the economic growth and improvement of this entire region by providing assistance to new and existing businesses through grant writing, job creation, employee training, and more. His legacy of improving the lives of others will continue through the establishment of this endowed memorial scholarship as students obtain their education and career goals with the assistance of this scholarship. The memorial endowed scholarship will be available for a student pursuing a degree in a Technical and Industrial Field who maintains a 2.5 GPA. The applicant must be a resident or be employed in Hempstead County. The application for the scholarship can be completed at the college website at www.uacch.edu.
Hempstead County Economic Development Corporation Vice-Chairman Dr. Lester Sitzes III presents Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston with a Bowie Knife Wednesday August 19th at the annual meeting of the Hempstead County EDC.
The Hope City Board held their second meeting of August on Tuesday August 18th. The board approved a zoning change from a house and property at 1120 East Third. The house is on the corner of Betts Street. The property would go from C-4, office, to C-3 General Retail. Derek Muldrew petitioned for the change to establish a daycare. The board discussed and accepted an FAA grant. The grant is $ 162,882. The work would be for the north parallel taxiway lighting project. The grant pays 90% of the project and Arkansas Aeronautics will pay 10%. The board approved the Hope Fire Department to seek a grant from the Arkansas Rural Services Department for $ 34,000. The money would go towards turn -out equipment. The board approved the police department trading in their long guns which include shotguns and AR-15’s and get all AR-15’s. This would standardize training and as well as the way they are secured in police cars. The department would trade in 6 shotguns at $100 each. The new rifles would be $ 2,250. With tax and trade -ins the net would be $1,863.75. The board discussed an inquiry from Architectural Salvage by Ri-Jo, a Mena firm, about taking down the Dox building as a salvage project. The firm said it could do so in 45 days. Catherine Cook noted she had encouraged the contractor to contact the property owner but she didn’t know if that had happened. The city attorney didn’t believe the city could utilize a salvage contractor and no action was taken. The board approved an enabling ordinance. concerning changes to the water and light commission. The changes would allow those on the commission to also serve on other such bodies as well as to serve concurrently in a political office. It would also reduce terms to no longer than 5 years. Under the city manager’s report, Catherine Cook noted there were no problems with the Watermelon Festival. She noted a pre – construction conference has been held on an airport project. Cook alone asked to apply for a $2,500 grant to redo a flower bed at Third and Walnut. The grant would be from the Arkansas Plant and Flower Show. Cook also noted Georgia -Pacific has given $ 5,000 grants to the Hope Fire Department and the Hope Police Department. Director Willie Walker and Hazel Simpson talked about naming some structures at Northside Park. Simpson noted the contributions of such community leaders as Euradale Douglas, Harvey Washington, Willie Brandon, Sr., Jimmy Jones, and Roscoe Smith. Simpson says they also hope to begin programs in 2016. Mayor Ramsey suggested the naming be done in 2 weeks when some photos can be shown and some advance publicity done. Chief J. R. Wilson noted Lieutenant Jimmy Courtney captured an escapee from a work – release program earlier in Hope on Tuesday. The board also discussed continuing the deer hunt at the Hope Airport. Last year 39 were killed. No action was taken. Jay Kopecky thanked the city for their help on the Watermelon Festival 5 k
A work-release inmate who left his job in Texarkana Tuesday was taken into custody in Hope around 7:30pm Tuesday evening. 31 year old Torey Phillips was serving a 15 year sentence after being convicted in Hempstead County of manufacturing, delivery, and possession of a controlled substance. He was to be taken to the Ouachita River Correctional Unit to be housed in a maximum-security cell for the night.
At approximately 10:15 pm on Saturday August 15, 2015 Deputy Derick Bunn was dispatched to Highway 67 West in reference to sexual assault involving a 4 year old male. Upon arrival Deputy Bunn made contact with the caller and the suspect a 19 year old male later identified as Anthony Young. Further investigation determined 19 year old Anthony Young was in the bathroom and a 4 year old boy came in to use it. The 19 year old then closed the door to the bathroom and got the boy to come in the stall with him. Young then undressed the boy and sexually assaulted him. Anthony Young was arrested and transported to the Hempstead County Detention Center where he was booked in for Rape and held for first appearance.