Crawford County justices of the peace approved a yearly salary raise of $1,989.04 for themselves during their regular monthly meeting Monday night.
After approving the raise during budget committee Monday night, JPs during the Crawford County Quorum Court meeting voted 9-4 in favor of the nearly $2,000 raise, bringing their total yearly salaries to $6,000 each.
JPs will receive a total of $500 each month beginning in May for attending the regular monthly meeting and any scheduled committee meetings. JPs currently receive $334.26 each month.
JPs must attend the regular monthly meeting to be compensated, according to Ordinance 2016-11.
Voting against the ordinance were JPs Mary Blount, Shane Griffin, Cathy Gifford and Connie Beyerle.
Blount started discussion on the issue during the Budget Committee meeting by voicing her opposition.
"Realize that if we do this, if this ordinance passes, we are giving ourselves a nearly $2,000 annual raise, which is more than we gave our employees," Blount said. "I’m sorry, I think it’s wrong."
In December, all county employees received a raise of $1,000 and elected officials a raise of $3,000.
Though finances for the county have been slightly better this year than recent years, Griffin said he felt the county’s income was neither stable nor significant enough to support a raise for JPs.
"I don’t disagree that we need a raise, I just don’t think we need a raise right now," Griffin said.
Raises for JPs initially were approved during a personnel committee meeting in March during which JP Carrie Jernigan cited her own research comparing Crawford County’s JP salaries to those of five other counties closest in population to Crawford.
Jernigan reiterated her findings Monday, that Crawford’s salaries were "significantly lower" than the other five counties, including one county with a population of about 20,000 less than Crawford.
"This [salary increase] puts us in the middle," Jernigan said. "I should think that would be our goal."
It was noted during the meeting that JPs had not received a raise in more than 10 years, and receive no benefits.
JP Elaina Damante, also in favor of the raise, said she was disappointed by those who were against it.
"We try to be fair to all employees, and we are not being fair to ourselves," Damante said. "I’ve done nothing but fight for the employees of this county, and I feel like I’m being disregarded."
Others who voted in favor of the raise were JPs Butch Barnes, Jason Cox, Lloyd Cole, David Rofkahr, Tia Woodruff, Stanley Clark and Donna Coatney. A majority of nine is needed to pass an ordinance in quorum court.
Also during the meeting Monday night, JPs approved a resolution to match federal and state funding on a stoplight at U.S. 71 and Arkansas 282. The intersection only has a flashing light there now.
Once the project is funded and approved for construction by the state, the county will be obligated to pay 10 percent of costs.
Total cost to the project is estimated at about $450,000, which would cost the county about $45,000, said Crawford County Judge John Hall. Money for the project would come from the county road department, he said.
After conducting a traffic and feasibility survey, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department found that a full stop light is needed at the intersection, Hall said.
"Because of interstate access, the traffic up there is starting to get heavier and heavier," Hall told JPs.
No timeline has been set on when ADHD might go forward with the project, but Hall estimated it will be at least three years.
Crawford County also will be in charge of maintaining the light once installed, Hall said. Crawford County only has one other stoplight in the unincorporated area, at the intersection of Sunnyside Road and U.S. 64 near Alma.
JPs also approved paying $12,500 to the Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority of Western Arkansas.
Crawford County is one of four government agencies that committed to providing funding for RITA, along with Sebastian County and the cities of Van Buren and Fort Smith.
Because of budget shortfalls, the county has failed to pay for the past four years.
Crawford County committed to paying about $25,000 each year. Gifford, who sponsored the ordinance, said the other $12,500 will be requested later in the year if the county budget allows for it.
JPs also authorized a resolution for Dillmeier Enterprises in Van Buren to participate in the state Tax Back Program, which would refund local sales and use taxes to the company.
Dillmeier qualified for the program by expanding its facility at 2903 Industrial Park Road, which will add 20 jobs to the area.