Government Center

MOROCCO — After a lengthy debate, the Newton County Council voted (6-1) to re-establish a full-time position in the assessor’s office, the same position the council unanimously voted to cut less than a year ago due to concerns over if the county’s funds were best being utilized in that office.

Newton County Assessor Kristen Hoskins came before the council Aug. 9 informing them that she will be down one employee in the near future because of maternity leave. She added that finding a person to fill in temporarily would be hard temporary person will be hard and asked if the full-time position could be reinstated because her office needed help.

Hoskins also said that since her office took over part of the reassessment responsibilities they have found an additional $35 million in assessed valuation and have saved the county more than $300,000 over four years compared to what it would cost to pay a vendor to do it.

Some council members felt that an extra person was needed, while others thought if the position was put back in, stipulations would be needed to be included in the job description so that new employees in that office would be motivated to get the certifications needed.

“I don’t have a problem putting restrictions in, (but) I have a little bit of a hard time with ‘we are not going to get you help unless you give us certain time frames’ because no other deputy in any other office has these restrictions,” said Hoskins.

In response, the council informed Hoskins that time frames for getting certificates or additional licenses have been asked for other departments including the highway department.

“I think a year and a half to two years is sufficient to get a Level 1 (certification) as long as we can get everybody going to conference at the same time because that is the only place to do it,” said Hoskins.

Later in the meeting, council member Scott McCord pointed out the fact that conference isn’t the only place to get the level certifications and it can be done all online.

Hoskins answered that she has had two people go online to do it but she feels people get more out of by actually going to the classes at conference.

Councilmember Michael Mark remarked that he believes four full-time positions are too many for the assessor’s office when other bigger counties get by with the same amount.

“White County has four employees in their office, “ said Mark. “I just don’t understand, they have so much more homes, and businesses than us... You had an employee who was the son in law of the assessor from Benton County who had no experience and sat in that office and did nothing for a year and a half to two years. You couldn’t get rid of him and now we are having to pay the piper to physically hire more employees so that you can manage your office.”

The council approved to put the full-time position back in the budget and to change the job description to include that new hires will be required to reach Level 1 in a year, reach Level 2 in two years and reach Level 3 in four years. The lone no vote on the issue came from council member Mark.

In other news from the council meeting, John Hivley, county maintenance director, informed the council that the roof on the Blann Family Log Cabin located near the Government Center is deteriorating.

The council thought the $75,000 that was approved for work on the cabin would have covered the roof.

“We need to decide if we should keep the cabin,” said McCord. “I thought the $75,000 bid was for the whole thing. Personally, I feel that we should terminate the maintenance contract with the company. They did us dirty.”

An additional for the log cabin work was not on the agenda so the council could not take action on it.