The Sharp County Quorum Court held its regular meeting May 13, hearing from concerned citizens regarding the loss of livestock and damage to fencing.
Following regular and new business, Sharp County residents John Kunkel and Regenia Conway addressed the court.
Kunkel was first to speak, telling the court that recently there had been many issues in his community near Evening Shade, resulting in the death of livestock, destruction of property and theft of livestock.
“I had a goat beheaded and drained of its blood. The sheriff came out. This last week, Regenia had a calf get stolen. Her fence was cut and the calf was drug away. And then over the weekend there was another incident where a fence was cut, horse was taken and the horse later died,” Kunkel said. “That has all happened within two weeks in a two mile radius.”
He noted that he feared there was a quantity issue with regards to the sheriff’s department, citing delayed response times as cause for the concerns shared by himself and the neighbors in his community.
“Our concern being out in the county is, if something happened in one end and there’s not a second officer were waiting two to three hours for an officer. I can tell you we’re on high alert. We’re meeting with Shane [Sharp County Sheriff Shane Russell] at the first part of June to get a neighborhood watch started,” Kunkel said.
When asked if Kunkel was requesting the sheriff’s department hire more deputies, he said that was a call which would need to be made by the sheriff.
“I don’t know if that’s what the sheriff needs, but from a citizen standpoint, if we only have two deputies on duty and one is out of town doing a transport and the other is with an inmate at the ER, who is watching out for the citizens? Or, if we only have one deputy and we call 911, we may be waiting over two hours for someone to get there because they are busy. My concern is not the quality of our sheriff’s department, it is the quantity to take care of us.”
Conway noted the loss of her calf wasn’t just a financial one, she had also felt robbed of her peace.
“That wasn’t a regular calf, I believe it was stolen when I was home alone. Our little, quiet, peaceful Sharp County is becoming a scary place to live. It’s most likely someone who is right near us and that is our concern with the neighborhood watch,” Conway said. “Are these people in the group for the watch just to know what’s being said? People haven’t been noticing any unusual vehicles, so it’s probably someone local. There is a wolf among the sheep and it’s a concern. At this point we don’t know. Is it money motivated or is it someone on drugs or not mentally stable?”
Conway noted there were cameras which caught traffic along the roadway and she had reviewed footage immediately after the theft of her calf, no unknown vehicles were spotted on the tape.
Sheriff Shane Russell said the case was ongoing and had not been closed.
“We’ve run down everything we can on that. With the calf being stolen we took a report on that and Russell Lancaster is taking that,” Russell said. “…There is a lot of things going on down in that area that may be tied together. I don’t want to make anybody to overreact but that the same time there are things going on down In that area and we are putting on extra patrol.”
In business addressed prior to citizen concerns, Sharp County Clerk Alisa Black offered an exciting announcement.
“We are getting ready for next week. We’ve got a company coming in that is going to be switching us over to where we can do e-filing with e-reporting and we’ll be jumping on board with getting that done,” Black said. “We may have one or two days of down time for training purposes. What we are doing, there is a possibility that may happen but we hope to keep going on like we are. We’re excited about this coming in. We’ll have a credit card system and we’re excited about it.” a
During his report, Russell provided an update regarding income and expenses.
“I can tell you roughly, $43,000 is what we brought in last month, over $6,000 in nicotine. We got the 90/10 grant for $93,000 and change and we got the 90 percent back which was $83,000. The other 10 percent I was given back as a donation,” Russell said.
He added other reimbursements had come through including $1,500 for medicine and another grant is in the works.
When discussing the camera system issues at the jail, Russell said he had checked with two local companies who although could install or change out cameras, could not work with the software needed to make the jail’s systems work together.
He provided a cost comparison and explained Homeland Safety Systems, who made a presentation during the previous month’s meeting, was the better of the options both financially for the immediate future and for down the road.
“If we change and go to Homeland Safety Systems, the quote is for $93,634.22 and that is a two year warranty, parts and labor included and at the end of the two years, they will not charge more than 10 percent a year to carry. So at the end of the two years, it will be another $9,300 a year to keep that warranty otherwise, we’re looking at $25,000 a year,” Russell said. “They will not change out cameras they will add them and the ones we have now will also be covered.”
Ultimately, the court voted to place an ad in a local paper to accept bids and move forward next month with a final decision.
Under new business, Judge Mark Johnson requested the court make a pay scale adjustment for a new employee.
Johnson explained although new to his District Court Office, the employee had decades of experience performing the work.
“She’s going to be replacing one of my clerks. Ms. Amanda Brewer who had 25 years of service. I’m asking for 18 years of service for the new employee.”
After a brief discussion, the court voted to approve the request.
J.P. Briana DiIorio provided an update on her findings at the recent Quorum Court Conference.
She told the court several items were discussed including the repeal of a portion of an act passed in 1999 which placed the cost of deputy prosecutors on the county’s shoulders. It was meant to be temporary, but has been in effect for 25 years.
If successful, it would add to the turn-back funds paid to the county each year. A similar discussion regarding the cost of public defenders was also held. Sales tax increases, crypto mining was addressed, extending medical marijuana cards from one years to three years, state prisoners being housed in county jails and the FOIA issue were also discussed at the conference.
More discussion is expected at the next conference later this summer.
Judge Mark Counts discussed the need to pave and expand parking at the courthouse.
Counts thanked the court for their prayers and calls while he had been out sick and said that due to his hospitalization, he’d not been able to do more research on cost for parking issues but J.P. Chuck Murphy had.
After discussion, the court opted to take bids on various project options such as overlay and or chip and seal, overlay with expanded parking and overlay with new construction for parking.
It will be discussed further during the June Quorum Court meeting.
The court also passed an ordinance, 2024-4 an ordinance to establish a special revenue grant fund to be called the adult drug court- opioid settlement fund; and to declare an emergency.
The ordinance will allow for $10,237.51 in revenue to be transferred from a settlement to the county for drug court.
The Sharp County Quorum Court meets the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Sharp County Courthouse.
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