Quorum Court tables ordinance for recycling money

A proposed ordinance to provide funding for the new e-waste recycling program was tabled Monday night by the Jefferson County Quorum Court after several members of the county’s legislative body raised questions about the way employees would be paid.

County Judge Dutch King said a special meeting will have to be called as soon as the county attorney can get answers to the questions the justices of the peace raised.

Specifically, County Attorney Jackie Harris was asked to find out if the county will be liable for paying overtime or comp time to employees who work part time at the recycling center in addition to their regular 40-hour per week job, because the two jobs would not be related to each other, and would it be acceptable to pay the employees with one paycheck, as the Association of Arkansas Counties recommended.

Justice of the Peace Dr. Conley Byrd started the discussion when he asked about raises, which the recycling director and the grants administrator to County Judge Dutch King received when the judge split money that the quorum court had approved for a person to run the recycling center between Matt Earnest, who runs recycling operations, and Daniel Marks, who is also the legislative assistant to King.

The raises were funded by a grant from the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, which selected Jefferson County as the e-waste recycling hub for the northern part of the district.

“If the grant is discontinued, will the raises go away?” Byrd asked, and was told “yes” by King.

Much of the opposition to the proposed ordinance came from Justice of the Peace Lloyd Franklin II, who said he had reservations about the way the ordinance was structured and was not happy about splitting the money approved for an e-waste director between Earnest and Marks.

“We should be creating jobs,” Franklin said, who also said he had contacted the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and was told that no special license was needed for the job.

During committee meetings last week, Franklin was told that a license was needed.

Franklin also said that the proposed ordinance requires some restructuring of staff and creates the new position of recycling public outreach coordinator and two assistants, all who currently work for the county and will be receiving additional money from the grant.

“The outreach coordinator will be doing the same thing as the recycling coordinator that is already on the road department payroll,” Franklin said.

His biggest issue centered around the way the county proposes to pay employees who work part-time at the new recycling center when it opens, saying that it violates state and federal labor laws.

Under the plan, which King and Marks both said was approved by the Association of Arkansas Counties, employees would receive $15 per hour to work at night or on Saturdays, and the money they earn would be added to their regular county paycheck.

“After 40 hours you’ve got to pay overtime,” Franklin said. “What you’re doing is illegal.”

“We’ve talked to people who are a whole lot smarter than me and a whole lot smarter than you and they say we can,” King said to Franklin. “This is an opportunity for our employees to pick up money on the side.”

Andrew Armstrong, who is the director of solid waste programs for the development district, was asked by Franklin if the county was violating any laws and Armstrong said, “no, not as far as the way they’re operating the program.

“Jefferson County was our first choice (to operate the e-waste recycling center), but if the Quorum Court doesn’t want that to happen, there are other options,” Armstrong said. “There are also some capital expenditures that might have to be repaid.”

Both Byrd and Justice of the Peace Ted Harden questioned the overtime situation Franklin said would exist if the ordinance was adopted the way it was written.

“Everybody favors this deal, but we want to be sure (about the overtime),” Byrd said.

Justice of the Peace Edward Spears, who is chairman of the Solid Waste/Recycling Committee, said, “There’s no way I’m against this, but it would be nice to get unanimous consent.”