Quorum Court

Judge Dale James (center) addressing the Quorum Court at its Nov. 18 meeting.

CLINTON — Van Buren County Quorum Court met in its regular session Nov. 18. Justices reviewed ordinances on a number of funding concerns, including Premium Pay for COVID-19 -impacted county employees.

Premium Pay is the name given to bonus pay provided by the American Rescue Plan fund. The fund, a federal program, provides money to counties to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Federal legislation has placed tight restrictions on its application, with one provision allowing payment to county employees affected by COVID-19 due to working with the public.

Budget Committee Chair Justice Brian Tatum presented to the court that the committee had established a one-time payment of $2,000 to full-time employees, and $1,000 to part time employees, the latter group including those employed by the county for seven months or less.

The seven month figure was based upon the coronavirus health emergency being 14 months long.

The pay was based upon “… risks taken during the pandemic [by employees],” Tatum told the court, adding that the pay was for those who has a public-facing job, as opposed to those who “went home.”

Justice Mary Philips added that in preparing the proposal, Quorum Court Justices were not included in any payment, with Justice Sara Brown, pointing to the white board behind her with calculations for the premium pay amount, adding the committee worked “...to be conservative with the [ARP] money.”

The county is expected to receive $3.2 million in ARP funds.

An amendment added an emergency clause to the ordinance was approved, and the Premium Pay passed with all justices voting in favor. With the emergency clause in effect, only a single reading and vote is required for court passage.

In a similar vein, the court voted in favor of the county Senior Center using $135,370 of CARES Act money, also part of federal coronavirus economic relief, “for equipment and a vehicle,” by ordinance. All Justices voted in favor and the ordinance passed with little discussion.

An ordinance which was tabled last month, regarding funding appropriations in the sheriff’s office, was approved. Confusion in the October meeting was due to a fee the office received from a salvage operator, to permit the operator to do business in used catalytic converters. The law requiring this $250 fee was passed by the state legislature and the money, per the ordinance, was appropriate to the department’s General Supplies fund.

Resolutions were also passed, one of which was for the court being in favor of a $3,000 tax credit for law enforcement. This ordinance, being circulated to quorum courts throughout the state, is based on legislation due to be proposed at the next state legislative session by Sen. Jason Rapert.

As Quorum Courts approve the resolution, the results will be sent to the governor in support of the bill.

A tax credit law was “long overdue,” Tatum, a law enforcement officer, said. All justices voted in favor of the resolution.

Two additional resolutions passed, one supporting the county entering a lease-purchase agreement for dump trucks. A second approved a cascade system, used for servicing oxygen bottles, for Dennard Fire Department.

Other ordinances:

The county passed the annual millage, unchanged from the previous year.

An ordinance was passed to $2,596.28 provide payments for the Courthouse Annex HVAC system, which had to be replaced. In discussion, justices learned that ARP funding was not available for such projects.

An increase in severance tax led to an additional $120,000 being appropriated into the county road fund. Money was being used both to stock up for winter and stocking up supplies due to supply chain concerns.

A similar situation to the severance tax as the Solid Waste fund gained $7,000 in appropriations due to revenue above projections.

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