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Baxter County recognized for safety program efforts, sells 10.4 acres to Black Mountain Energy Storage

Baxter County’s Quorum Court had a packed agenda Tuesday evening that saw the county sell off some of its property for new business development, and the presentation of an award plaque that was presented to Baxter County Safety Coordinator Joe Quinn after the county won the Association of Arkansas Counties Workers’ Compensation Trusts Safety Program Efforts award for its 2022 convention.

Baxter County has held the AAC’s safety program award for a steady decade.

“For 10 years now, I’ve only missed one year of being able to present this plaque,” said Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass. “It’s always a joy to get this plaque at the AAC convention each year. We’re graded by a survey that we are given each year on the workers comp programs within the counties, and we have been rated again and awarded with a plaque that recognizes Baxter County for their safety and program efforts in 2022.”

To win the award, the county is graded on how many workers compensation claims are made within the given year. The AAC also looks at the number of accidents that occurs to county workers throughout the year, as well as how many investigations must be conducted following the accident.

Quinn also said that the county was graded at a federal level in regard to the county’s mining operations, as well as safety programs like mechanic safety at auto repair shops and the county’s fire extinguisher program.

“This is more for the employees that it is anybody else,” said Quinn. “They’re the ones that make this happen, because without their efforts and their safeties, and them calling me and saying, hey, this is what’s going on, what can we do to make this safer, this never would have happened.”

Following the award presentation, the court moved onto other business, with its first focus being the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office had several ordinances passed on its behalf throughout the night including the appropriation and reimbursement of funds for the month of July in the tune of $14,390.22.

Next, the Sheriff’s Office received an additional $45,902 in juvenile probation fees and another $165,000 in funds for the Baxter County Jail’s maintenance and operation fund.

Lastly, the court passed an ordinance amending the Sheriff’s personnel policy manual, to better reflect federal and state law following several recent rulings in court that focused on Fourth Amendment rights and random drug testing. Those recent rulings now require reasonable suspicion to perform drug tests on workers.

Changes are expected for several other policy manuals and workers throughout the county, with the exception of CDL drivers, who can be tested at any time.

“The attorney’s helped us put together this policy, but after, in fact Mr. Frank was in the same meeting I was in, as soon as that training session was over, the attorney bee-lined for me and said as soon as you get back, we need to check your drug testing policy,” said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery. “Recent court rulings have changed, and therefore our language was no longer in compliance.”

In addition to the court’s ordinances surrounding the Sheriff’s Office, the court also passed an ordinance appropriating $57,329.70 to the Emergency 911 Fund to cover overtime costs following the courts decision to give its employees a $2 raise. The court had previously failed to account for the increase in overtime costs in its budget, forcing the fund into the red. Last night’s vote rectified the budget line item, which should now be covered through the end of the year.

Additionally, the court passed funding for a temporary position at the Baxter County Animal Control Department for $16,420.49. Mike St. Romaine and Steven Obenauf were also reappointed to the Gamaliel Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners.

That vote was followed by a vote to increase the mileage reimbursement rate for county employees that are traveling for work. The mileage rate is now in line with federal reimbursements to help alleviate travel costs.

The original millage rate was .45 cents per mile. It has now been increased to .62 cents per mile.

In one of the court’s last actions for the night, the court passed an ordinance to sell off 10.4 acres of property in the Baxter County Industrial Park to Black Mountain Energy Storage, LLC for $91,000. Judge Pendergrass said the price of the sale was very good for the county.

A point of contention was made over the waiver of restriction in the protective covenants, but Pendergrass assured the court that the waiver of the protective covenant wouldn’t lead to a negative effect for surrounding businesses.

Pendergrass declined to state what Black Mountain Energy Storage had planned for its 10.4 acre purchase and said the company would reveal that information to the public over the next few years.
The full sale agreement and the ordinances passed on Tuesday night have been posted below.

Lastly, the court passed a resolution in support of Operation Green Light for veterans in Baxter County. In honor of the operation, the county hereby declares Nov. 7 through Nov. 13 as a time to salute and honor the service and sacrifice of the county’s men and women in uniform as they transition from active service to civilian life.

The court encourages county citizens to recognize the importance of honoring all those who made immeasurable sacrifices to preserve freedom by displaying a green light in their home windows or businesses during this time period.

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