The Polk County Quorum Court met Tuesday for their April meeting after having not met in March due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The meeting was moved to the courtroom of the Polk County Courthouse to allow social distancing and all in attendance were checked for fever before entering the courthouse and offered a mask to wear. Names were placed on seating to space the Justices of the Peace at least six feet from each other.
Ten of the eleven JPs were present and one participated remotely.
County Judge Brandon Ellison presided over the most unusual meeting. Also in attendance were other county elected officials and the prosecuting attorney.
JPs handled routine business, were updated about things recently sold at a public auction and items taken off the county inventory, and heard a brief report about the 2018 Audit Review of Polk County. There were no concerns from the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee and no recommendations.
Leon Philpot, CEO of Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative (RMEC), and representatives of Today’s Power, Inc. (TPI), spoke to the Quorum Court about the Solar Farm being built on Highway 88 East across from Mena Lake. After the presentation and discussion, the Quorum Court approved a resolution that will allow the Solar Farm project to enter into an agreement with the County where payments are made in lieu of property taxes and would be 35% of the normal tax amount, and the County would become owner of the asset and lease it back to TPI. Currently the land is not generating any tax revenue for the County since it is owned by a public utility company, and even before that was owned by a school district. (The site is where the Cloverleaf School was located until it consolidated with the Acorn School in the 1940s according to local historian Harold Coogan.) The payments in lieu of taxes or PILOT, will generate around $63,000 over the next 20 years, and that money will go mainly to the Ouachita River School District, and the County and City of Mena will also receive a portion of it. After 20 years the asset will be sold back to TPI for a de minimis amount. Ouachita River School District Superintendent Jerrall Strasner was present at the meeting and spoke in favor of the project. Philpot told the Quorum Court that the savings to RMEC on energy costs would be passed on to members.
The Quorum Court also unanimously passed a resolution paving the way for the application of an Arkansas Community and Economic Development grant that will benefit the Mena hospital.
The Polk County Quorum Court members are: Chris Daniel, Jim Neugent, Harold Coogan, Margarett “Margo” Kimp, Troy Lunsford, Terry Terrell, Tommy Floyd, Terry L. Scott, Basil Kesterson, Mitchell Tidwell, and Tawana Gilbert.