King: Recycling program could improve county finances


Jefferson County Judge Dutch King predicted Monday night that profits from the county’s recycling efforts eventually will allow the county to give its employees a bonus each year.

It might be $100, it might be $200, it might be $500,” King said during a meeting of the Quorum Court. “It’s something we can legally do.”

The judge’s comments followed a presentation by Andrew Armstrong, who works for the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District and Solid Waste District, on the work the county has done to establish an E-Waste Recycling Center.

Armstrong said the district, which includes 10 counties in Southeast Arkansas, selected Jefferson County to be the recycling hub for the five northern counties in the district. State grant money has allowed the county to convert a building behind Pope Furniture on East Harding Avenue into a new recycling and E-Waste recycling center.

Armstrong said that while the grant money cannot be used to pay administrative costs, it can be used to pay salaries for employees. He said two county employees —Daniel Marks, the grants administrator and legislative assistant to King and recycling manager Matt Earnest — will play expanded roles in the new recycling center, and will be compensated accordingly from the grant funds.

In addition, since the new recycling center will have to operate at night and on Saturdays, King said any county employee who wants to work at the center on Saturday will be allowed to do so.

“We will put the names on a rotation system,” King said. “This is not going to cost the county a dime and we can be on the fast track to making cash money for the county.”

Armstrong said the Hazardous Waste Recycling Center currently operated by the city of Pine Bluff will move to the new recycling facility and be a partner in the recycling efforts, removing what he called “that eyesore near historic Taylor Field.”

“This is one of a lot of opportunities for the city and county to partner to work together for the betterment of all of us,” King said.

Regarding the role of Marks and Earnest in directing the recycling operation, Armstrong said the Solid Waste District “couldn’t afford for the county to hire a new person to do the job because of the fringe benefits they would have to receive.”

Questioned by Justice of the Peace Delton Wright about what happens to the E-Waste collected at the center, Armstrong said it will be shipped to a federal prison at Texarkana, Texas, where inmates will take the equipment apart and remove any hazardous materials.

Marks also told the county’s legislative body that the sheriff’s office is benefiting from the recycling efforts as members of the sheriff’s Clean Team work to separate materials at the current center on Gravel Pit Road and the sheriff’s department is paid for their work. In addition, the department is guaranteed 15 percent of the profits of all the materials sold.

“It sounds like a workable program,” Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd said. “Generating funds to support the sheriff’s office and the county.”

Byrd also suggested that when the new center is completely operational, a tour be arranged for members of the quorum court.

In other business, an ordinance to amend the existing ordinance that established the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum Commission in 1996 was approved without dissent.

The amended ordinance will comply with state law on the establishment of boards and commissions and increases the number of members of the museum commission from seven to nine. It also reduces from seven to three years the terms of commissioners on a staggered basis.

All current members of the commission were grandfathered in and will be sworn in by King at a later date.