By Jeri Pearson
Gains are being observed by Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison for county employees and county roads.
Salary adjustments were recently approved by the Polk County Quorum Court and Ellison said the 3 percent raise for county employees is deserved.
“We typically try to pass a cost of living raise when we feel like we can,” he said. “We generally wait till about March or April to discuss that, because the way county government budgets for the upcoming year, we have to project what we think we are going to get the coming year and budget accordingly.”
State law only allows counties to budget 90 percent of anticipated revenue for the upcoming year and must be approved by the Quorum Court in December.
“But you really don’t know what your carry over from the previous year is going to be,” Ellison explained.
“At this point in the year, we can see if it is smart to do a salary adjustment,” he continued.
A 3 percent salary adjustment was approved for all employees, retroactive to January 1.
“This applies to everyone, but the JP’s elected to not give themselves a 3 percent raise,” Ellison said.
Justice of Peace elected officials receive approximately $250 a month, and receive health insurance which cost the county more than the pay they receive.
“We are not able to pass a raise every year, we attempt to do cost of living increase, but it doesn’t happen every year,” Ellison said. “We have been able to the last few years because revenue has been good.”
Attempting to make road improvements has proven challenging with last year’s double-the-average rainfall and weather has continued to plague road crews.
“We have made a good bit of headway in spite of weather,” Ellison said. “The last three years we have been cursed with frequency, not just the amount, which is more devastating, because it keeps you from being productive. Last year we were not getting any windows to get it done, and this year we have forced it. So far, we have surfaced about 7.35 miles on a project in the Ink/Board Camp/ Mena area, that we got through with last month.”
The location of the resurfacing project includes Polk 74 (Holly Springs Road), Polk 625 (Country Club Road), Polk 181 and Polk 63.
Some sections of the project were prepared for resurfacing by complete reconstruction, some were asphalt leveled, cut and repaired, while other sections only required resurfacing. Many drainage pipes were replaced and upgraded.
Surfacing types ranged from 2 inch asphalt overlay, 2 layers of asphalt emulsion with aggregate, and single layer asphalt emulsion and aggregate. Center stripes will likely be delayed due to the reported shortage of traffic marking paint.
“We completed about a week ago, Polk Road 1, south of Grannis, 4.3 miles of rebuilt roads, which was done through the winter and put a double chip and seal on it,” Ellison said. “We were able to do the resurfacing in four days, but it took three weeks to get those four days in because of the rain.”
Ellison said road crews will continue to work through the weather, noting some projects will be started in temperatures cooler than would be ideal.
“It is best to be hot, normally in June, we are getting 90 plus degrees, but that looks like we are going to have to make do,” he said. “We have more planned and we have plans for a big year.”
Ellison said funds were reserved from last year as a result of not being able to resurface due to the weather.
“If conditions improve, we will be able to use those funds to do those projects.”
Ellison said while crews have been as productive as possible and made significant headway, roads continue to deteriorate due to the rain.
“We are losing roads because it’s hard to keep up with them because of the rain. You finish one project and another road needs work,” he said. “We are working to get the roads back in shape. You can’t do anything with gravel roads when they are wet, and the need to double up on gravel roads has been a challenge.”