By Allison Goodman

Staff Writer

The Lonoke County Quorum Court unanimously voted to move forward with installing credit card machines at county offices during its meeting April 18.

Before the meeting began, Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin asked for a moment of silence for those involved in the Boston marathon bombing April 15 and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, on April 18.

Following reports by the treasurer and officials, justice of the peace B.J. Weathers moved forward with his idea of the county accepting credit/debit cards.

"I believe the one we’ve come up with will fit the county the best," Weathers said.

Whether paying taxes, fines or purchasing a marriage license, county residents will now have the option of swiping a card or paying over the phone with a credit/debit card. Weathers said it was his goal to come up with the best product for the county in an effort to begin taking other forms of payment.

Lee Linville introduced Kyle Hayden with Metropolitan National Bank who made his presentation on their option for accepting credit card payments.

Hayden proposed a virtual merchant option which is an Internet based operation that can be preformed in a retail setting, at remote location or integrated into a company’s online website. He presented packets to the court showing what the overall costs and usage fees are. He suggested the county have customers pay a fee to cover charges occurred when the card is used.

One of the biggest concerns among members was how the county can legally charge an additional fee to compensate for the fees the county accumulates for customers using the new payment method. A three-percent fee was suggested.

"We need to know that information before we make a decision," Erwin said.

"We don’t want it to be a profit thing… we don’t want it to be a loss thing," Weathers said.

According to Weathers, the county is not trying to make profit by accepting cards, but it should not lose money by taking them either. He said by incorporating ideas from Pulaski County, there is no reason they should not be able to charge the fees, so long as the customer understands the fees are occurred because they are choosing to use a card and signs off accepting the transaction.

Weathers said the county has a lot of outstanding debt which has not been collected. He said he hopes by offering an additional and easier options to residents, the county will see an increase in revenue.

After brief discussion, the court unanimously voted to move forward with the three-percent addition to payments made by customers via debit/credit card. Offices should begin taking payments within the next two month, following installation and training, according to Hayden.

In other county business, collection of the county’s beaver bounty has sky rocketed, according to Erwin. Erwin said in 2012, the 714 beaver tails were brought in. He said there has already been 484 collected in January, February and March.

The bounty for beavers in Lonoke County is currently $30 per tail and only $15-$20 per tail in surrounding counties, Erwin said. He said he believes beavers are being captured in other counties and brought into Lonoke County because the bounty is higher. Erwin asked the court to consider lowering the bounty to $20 per tail to deter those abusing the County’s beaver bounty program. Brent Canon, Weathers, Henry Long, Darrin Waymack, Lee Linville, Charles Evans, Mike Dolan and Matt Sanders voted for reducing the bounty to $20. Adam Sims, Bill Ryker, Larry Odom, Roger Lynch and Tim Lemons voted against reducing the bounty. The vote passed 8-5.

Erwin appointed Sims to oversee a committee that will look into ways to stop the county from having beavers from surrounding counties.

Due to some recent, undisclosed issues, the court discussed the purchase of time clocks with face recognition, swipe cards or identification numbers.

"If it can be done, it has been done or they haven’t thought of it," Evans said.

One of the main questions court members had was will the unit actually solve the problem.

"I don’t know that this is necessary," Lemons said.

Following discussion on making officials more accountable for their employees, the court unanimously voted to make the system available to any elected official wanting to implement use of the system.

"I feel good about the team of Lonoke County," Erwin said.

Also during the meeting, by ordinances the court unanimously approved to the amend the 2013 budget to appropriate:

- The Sheriff’s department insurance settlement on a vehicle wrecked during the ice store, for the purchase of a replacement vehicle.

- The Federal Forfeiture funds to purchase a car for the criminal investigation department

- Carryover funds to the Lonoke County Museum

- The Brownsville Branch fund for beaver control

- Carryover funds the Department of Energy Grant fund.

- The Central Arkansas Planning and Development District grant to purchase veterans memorial park benches

- Funds received from the fire protection premium tax to pay county fire departments

The court also unanimously voted to stay with United Health Care for health, dental and life insurance until December and be on a regular 12-month basis at the beginning of the year.