Washington County Officials OK Road Department compensation plan that will increase the county’s cost of paying department employees by $700,000


County zoning

Land in unincorporated Washington County is zoned for agricultural or single family residential use. All other uses require the owner to obtain a conditional use permit through the county planning process. Permits must be approved by the Washington County Planning Board and the Quorum Court.

Source: Staff Report

FAYETTEVILLE — A new compensation plan for the Highways Department was approved by the Washington County Quorum Court on Thursday.

The justices of the peace voted 14-0 in favor of the new compensation plan.

Fayetteville District 9 Justice of the Peace Eva Madison abstained from the vote after saying the county needed to have the test portions of the compensation plan verified by an outside source. A motion by Shawndra Washington, a justice of the peace for District 8 in Fayetteville, to file an action on the plan until the tests can be verified as legal was denied.

The pay scale for road department employees has been the subject of discussion for several months, with a number of justices of the peace saying that the salary offered by the county is not competitive with private companies and that the road department roads is unable to hire and retain employees.

Brian Lester, county attorney, and Jeff Crowder, superintendent of county roads, presented the plan to the county services committee of the quorum court on April 4, to the personnel committee on April 11 and to the finance and budget committee. April 12. The committees voted in favor of the plan.

The proposal would increase pay in the department and provide a process for advancement based on an employee’s time with the county, knowledge and experience. Crowder said the department now has six or seven vacancies, with a bonus and hiring incentive program that the Court of Quorum approved last year helping to fill a number of vacancies.

Crowder said the new plan would increase the cost of road department employee compensation by about $700,000.

Madison said she supports increasing employee wages, but said the county needs to be certain the plan meets all legal requirements and federal labor law guidelines.

“It’s not OK,” Madison said. “We are reckless in adopting a program that we have not verified and we do not know if it is legally defensible.

The justices of the peace spent some time debating the implementation of the new compensation plan and its impact on bonuses and bonuses already approved by the Quorum Court due to the covid-19 pandemic. An amendment was proposed for the covid-19 payment to end when the new compensation plan was implemented, but was removed from the order before it was finally approved.

A pair of resolutions recognizing groups for their work during the covid-19 pandemic divided justices of the peace at Thursday’s meeting.

A resolution recognizing the Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, Arkansas Immigrant Defense, Arkansas United, The Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, The Marshallese Educational Initiative, and RootED Northwest Arkansas for their dedication and service to Washington County was filed after some judges in peace said they wanted to see if there were other groups that should be included in the resolution. Other justices of the peace noted that one of the groups was involved in a federal court lawsuit against the county and said they could not vote for the resolution for that reason. The resolution was eventually postponed.

A second resolution honoring child care providers was approved, but only after several justices of the peace suggested it should also be filed or amended to include other providers, including parents and teachers, who have provided child care during the pandemic. Motions to introduce or vary the resolution were defeated by the full Court quorum.

The justices of the peace also read an order affirming the County Planning Board’s denial of a conditional use permit for the Nazareth Retreat Center. The order denying the permit was up for second reading on Thursday evening. It has been read once and will remain on the agenda of the Quorum Court for a third and final reading at the May meeting.

The Conditional Use Permit was requested for a property located at 18316 Vaughn Road in northeast Washington County. According to information from planning staff, the three property parcels comprise 45.93 acres of land which is approximately one-half mile south of US 412 and also approximately one-half mile west of Beaver. Lake.

Proposal information indicates that the facility would be used for retreats, group meetings, training workshops, conferences, family reunions, weddings, birthdays, graduations and other celebrations as well than camping trips. The facility would have an open pavilion for summer events and be adaptable to an enclosed pavilion with a natural chimney for winter events, according to information provided to the county.

Several neighbors spoke out against the permit at Planning Board and Quorum Court meetings, saying the facility is not compatible with rural, agricultural, and single-family properties in the area. Specific concerns included noise, traffic, opening hours and potential negative impact on the environment, including light pollution from the centre. Some neighbors said they were concerned that people using center property would encroach on neighboring property, and some expressed concern about possible alcohol or drug use on center property.


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