In what was supposed to be a special meeting Monday for grant money instead revealed continued divisions within the Hempstead Quorum Court over what to do about the Cooperative Extension office and the fate of the County Agent’s position.

In what was supposed to be a special meeting Monday for grant money instead revealed continued divisions within the Hempstead Quorum Court over what to do about the Cooperative Extension office and the fate of the County Agent’s position.
The meeting also revealed, however, that the Cooperative Extension itself has not been forthcoming in disclosing its annual budget, much to the dissatisfaction of several of the Justices.
Justice Ed Darling said, “I asked to see their budget; I asked them at that last meeting. They gave me information about their funding, but I already knew that. I wanted to see their budget, and I haven’t seen it yet.”
Other Justices said that they, too, were interested in seeing the Extension Service’s annual budget, and Justice Lynn Montgomery suggested that the Quorum Court itself may consider filing a Freedom of Information Act request, normally the way news media agencies force public records releases, against the Extension for the budget.
“What don’t they want us to see,” Montgomery asked.
What Montgomery did see Monday night was verbal sparring with Justice Cherry Stewart, who gave a forceful appeal for the Justices to restore the funding and move forward.
“We’ve got to stop the bleeding here. We stepped into a hole that was none of our business. We need to restore this funding; they are not going to hire anyone else until we do,” Stewart said.
Montgomery, however, said he wanted to see the budget, and he wasn’t going to support restoring funding until he saw it. Stewart asked if the county really wants to lose the entire Extension Service, saying “I don’t think Hempstead County has $100,000 to do all that they do. Do we really think we can just go out and hire our own?”
There were two Justices not in attendance, and Montgomery pointed out that it takes a supermajority of the Quorum Court to vote to restore in the funding, and he told Stewart, “And, I’m not sure if they were here, that there would still the votes. There are too many unanswered questions.”
“How many people are going to be hurt by our continued inaction?” Stewart said.
County Judge Haskell Morse proposed tabling the matter, doubting that a vote would pass on the funding issue.
In the original action item for the evening, a $300,000 Hazard Mitigation grant, the Justices approved authority to submit an application to the State of Arkansas.
Morse said that the county would be ultimately responsible for half of the funds, and he said the funds would be earmarked to replace culverts on County Roads 52 and 54.