FORT SMITH -- New deputies coming in to the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office will get vehicles to go with the job.
The Sebastian County Quorum Court reviewed 28 capital budget proposals for this year at its meeting Tuesday, although it only approved funding for 26. These proposals came from the heads of county offices and departments to fulfill various equipment needs.
Justices of the peace unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance appropriating $607,711 from the county general fund to cover these proposals. The amount needed to fund all 28 of the proposals was $779,844.
The single largest request came from the Sheriff's Office: $162,057 for four patrol units with equipment.
Sheriff Hobe Runion said these vehicles were to accommodate the four new full-time patrol deputy positions the justices of peace approved for his department last year as part of the 2022 county budget process. They had deferred spending the money necessary to purchase the vehicles at the time, but approved appropriating $199,205 from the general fund for the positions.
This came after Runion told the Quorum Court at its meeting Aug. 17 that his department was "woefully understaffed" with the 18 patrol deputy positions it had had since 2006.
The second-largest single request was $93,069 for a prefabricated restroom and utility setup for the Torraine Lake area at Sebastian County's Ben Geren Park. This restroom would be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jay Randolph, county park administrator and golf course superintendent, wrote in a justification form for the request that that end of the park doesn't have a restroom despite Torraine Lake getting multiple users throughout the season on a daily basis.
"A recent trail counter identified over 100 persons per day and on weekends over 300 per day at Torraine Lake," Randolph wrote.
However, multiple Quorum Court members expressed concerns about how much this restroom would cost.
Rebekah Schwartz, justice of the peace for District 12, stated her opposition to spending this much money to place a bathroom at a park that doesn't directly make the county any money as opposed to the Ben Geren Softball Complex, where the county could potentially generate revenue.
Justices of the peace decided against funding the Torraine Lake area bathroom.
This comes after the Quorum Court approved applying for an Outdoor Recreation Matching Grant through the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism in August to get money for a project that would include tearing down the combined concession and restroom facility at the softball complex, which was built in 1972, and replacing it with a new, prefabricated one, among other things.
County Judge David Hudson said in August the grant for the project was projected to cost about $265,000 in total. The county expected to provide its 50% match by way of in-kind equipment and labor. Hudson said Tuesday the county was notified that it was not approved for this grant in December.
The justices of the peace also decided against funding a $79,064 proposal from the county facilities maintenance department for a boom lift and trailer that staff could use to make repairs.