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Quorum Court receives jail update, agrees to allow bidding on county property

Posted on June 21, 2019

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

Union County Judge Mike Loftin announced at yesterday’s regular monthly Quorum Court meeting that the City of El Dorado has paid their jail bill and an interlocal agreement has been reached between the county and the city.

Finishing up

The signed agreement finally puts a pin in what has been an ongoing issue between the city and county.

The city and county negotiated for a fair jail housing fee for the El Dorado Police Department’s inmates throughout March and April before settling on a one time up front payment of $600,000 along with a flat yearly jail rate of $175,000 for the next three years. The Union County Sheriff’s Office administrates the jail, which is why a jail rate is required; the UCSO could not handle the cost on their own.

In prior years, the Sheriff’s Office has charged the city $40 per day per inmate. EPD officials said then that the price was too high and impossible to budget for. In 2018, the city paid a flat rate of $162,000; if they’d been charged the $40 per day per inmate rate that all other municipalities in the county pay, that number would have almost doubled, to $333,980.

Union County Sheriff Ricky Roberts gave a brief update on the jail’s conditions. Upgrades at the jail were approved by the Quorum Court in November, with $1.2 million appropriated for it. In August, a fire broke out in the jail’s kitchen, necessitating additional repairs and renovations.

“The air conditioning units, I think they’ve got one or two more to put in. The plumbing, we’re probably 70 percent of that – we should have that done, I think they’re shooting for the end of this month, middle of next month,” Roberts said. “The radios are all up and running. Smackover has got their repeater up … so we’re going to have to reprogram our radios, but we think that’s going to help us a lot with Calion.”

With the upgrades almost complete, the Sheriff’s Office will soon be done paying bills as well; however, one new issue has arisen as they finish off their insurance payments.

Roberts said the UCSO’s insurance company, Gallagher Insurance, has billed his office $55,000 for food provided while the jail’s kitchen was being repaired. Tiger Correctional, a company that provides services specifically for prisons and jails, provided the food, while the insurance company was supposed to reimburse them.

“When we started this, they said that they would come in and pay for all the food and setting up the kitchen, and I questioned them. I said ‘you’re going to pay for the food that we’re going to supply [to the inmates]?’ And they said yes,” Roberts said. “I questioned them twice on it. (Chief Deputy) Charlie Phillips questioned them on it.”

Roberts said the adjustor that told him the food would be covered has since left Gallagher Insurance, saying it has been hard to negotiate with that connection in the company gone.

If the UCSO had provided food at their own expense, it would have only cost about $42,000, Roberts said.

“It is my hope we can come to some agreement that is less than what the insurance (company) claims we own. We are awaiting a call back from the insurance company in hopes of settling this claim,” he said in a written correspondence. “They paid all invoices up to this point directly to Tiger (Correctional), but now they want us to pay the final invoice. Our other option is to negotiate with Tiger to get the cost of the meals down to close to what it would have cost us during the time the kitchen was being rebuilt.”

Out with the old

Loftin also proposed allowing bids on an unused piece of property owned by the county.

“The next order of business is the Murphy-Beauchamp Home,” Loftin said. “There’s a vacant lot there and there’s been some interest there from some different people wanting to buy it, clean it up.”

In 2014, the Quorum Court approved a resolution allowing Loftin to accept public bids on the Murphy-Beauchamp Home, which at that point had reached a point of considerable deterioration and was no longer usable.

Loftin said the home was a known place for squatters, or those without property rights, to stay. The Murphy-Beauchamp Home was located at 503 E. Hillsboro, near the Salvation Army.

No one ended up purchasing the home, and in 2015, residents approached the El Dorado City Council to tell Council members that they felt unsafe living near the home, which by then was abandoned and had been vandalized.

The home was torn down about three years ago, after being placed on the El Dorado condemnation list. Now, Union County will attempt to sell the lot the home formerly sat on.

“We have no use for it. It’s on Hillsboro, they’re going to get part of it when they widen Hillsboro anyway,” Loftin said. “It didn’t go [when we tried to sell it before].”

Loftin proposed to declare the property as surplus in order to put it up for bidding. Loftin’s proposal was unanimously approved by the Quorum Court, except for District 4 Justice of the Peace Dean Storey, who was absent.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or