Justices of the Peace at the Feb. 21 quorum court meeting gave a "go-ahead" to equip county offices for electronic payments and the county judge set a "hard" date for a grievance hearing.
Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin and justices of the peace Darrin Waymack, Lee Linville, H.L. Lang, B.J. Weathers, Brent Canon, Larry Odom, Adam Sims, Charles Evans, Mike Dolan and Matt Sanders attended the meeting.
Weathers reported that he had checked further into electronic transaction service for the county. Weathers, at the Jan. 17 quorum court meeting, suggested the service to allow online payments as well as on-site payments for everything from taxes, to fees, to fines.
The transaction fees reported at the Jan. 17 quorum court meeting are actually set by the state and not by the company providing the service, Weathers said. "If we proceed with [the service], it is to whichever institution you want to go to … It’s your call if you want to proceed with it. The prices are set to what the state mandates," he said.
There may be differences in the rates charged for the machines, Weathers. Even with that, the services are "out-sourced" by the banks to one of about four companies that provide electronic transactions, he said.
Weathers said the county could add up to a 10-percent charge for the service. "I don’t really think the county should profit off of it," he remarked.
The state charges a 3 percent "convenience fee," Weather said.
Linville suggested the fee is calculated to cover the cost of the service.
"We could charge up to 10 [percent], but I am afraid if we get way out in left field no one will use it," Weathers said. But, the ease of online payments would make a small fee worth avoiding the cost and time to come to the courthouse, Weathers remarked.
Erwin asked that a request for information packages be advertised. "I’d like to do business inside the county whenever we can … but need to notify all of them," he said.
Evans made a motion to issue an invitation for information packages about services, "At least from the banks that want to be involved," he said.
In other matters, discussion of pay issues in the sheriff’s office turned to tracking and allowing "comp time" in lieu of overtime pay. Sheriff John Staley explained that investigators often accrue compensatory time that they are unable to use because of the demands of their work. When the comp time cannot be used, overtime is paid.
"The word ‘comp time’ bothers me," Evans remarked. Evans noted that when he was a JP about 10 years ago, "[Comp time] was a problem back then. This past year … there was quite a sum of money paid, I, for one, would hate to see that happen again," he said.
In May 2012, Lonoke County agreed to settle a federal lawsuit in an overtime pay dispute with a payment of $65,000. The suit, filed in Oct. 2011, had asked for nearly 2,000 hours of unpaid overtime. The settlement was far less than what could have been levied by the court, Erwin said at the time.
Evans pointed out that county policy is that when an employee earns comp time, the time should be used during the next pay period. It also specifies when overtime is paid.
Evans, chairman of the personnel committee, also asked the status of a grievance hearing requested by a former county employee. "We have had two meetings scheduled, and he continues to change the time," he said.
Erwin said a date had not yet been set, but one would be set. "If he can make it, fine. If he can’t, fine … I feel we have been more than cooperative," Erwin said.
In an unrelated pay issue, Evans questioned a pay raise awarded to an employee in the treasurer’s office.
Erwin explained that an employee retired shortly after Patti Weathers took office. Instead of hiring a new person, one of the remaining employees was promoted to chief deputy treasurer with additional duties.
The net pay difference is less than the office is budgeted for while the work is still being done, Erwin said.