Washington County

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There have been very few Circuit Court jury trials held across Arkansas in the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there have been brief windows of time when those types of in person proceeding were allowed, the Arkansas Supreme Court has suspended all felony jury trials through the end of April. The year long delay is having an impact on everyone involved in local judicial systems.

An ordinance that places limitations on how justices of the peace can bring items before the Quorum Court is heading to the full Washington County Quorum Court after it passed through the County Services Committee Monday evening. The ordinance requires all proposed ordinances to go through a committee and prohibits proposed ordinances from being raised a second time within a year if an ordinance was voted down the first time it was presented.

During their regular meeting Thursday, the majority of the Washington County justices of the peace voted against an ordinance that would put a portion of the county's CARES Act reimbursement toward pandemic financial aid programs. Late last year, the county received $4.5 million from the state's allotment of federal relief funding.

After several weeks of urging the Washington County Quorum Court to act on a $4.5 million reimbursement from the federal government, the justices of the peace brought up the matter in Tuesday's Finance and Budget Committee meeting.

Courtesy / Hark at Excellerate Foundation

In late January, Benton and Washington Counties received about $8.3 and $7.1, respectively, from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 to provide rental assistance to residents impacted by COVID-19. Both counties are working with local nonprofits to take applications and distribute the money.

As the Washington County Quorum Court met to discuss its budget for 2021, two other issues were raised: the county's plans for a $4.5 million reimbursement from the state's CARES Act allotment and the muting of Justices of the Peace who are attending meetings via Zoom.

Courtesy / Lindsey Management

The state's Fresh Start Program, which allocated $10 million in federal CARES Act funding for rental assistance, opened to applicants on Nov. 9. In Washington County, the Economic Opportunity Agency, which is administering the funding to renters in the area, received over 900 applications in just one week.

Courtesy / Evelyn Rios Stafford

Governmental bodies are becoming more diverse in some communities around the state. While the 15-member Washington County Quorum Court is losing one Hispanic Justice of the Peace, it’s gaining two more—Kenny Arredondo Loyola and Evelyn Rios Stafford. The latter also has the distinction of being the first openly transgender Arkansan elected to office in the Natural State.

Courtesy / Washington County Election Commission

Both the Washington and Benton County Clerks' offices will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday in October to collect absentee ballots from voters who requested them. The ballots can also be mailed. The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 3 general election is Monday, Oct. 5.

Z. Sitek / KUAF

Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-District 86, represents west Fayetteville and for the past two months she's been concerned about the 25 to 29 percent positivity rate of COVID-19 testing in Washington County when the CDC recommends that figure should be below 10 percent. In this case, a high positivity rate means there aren't enough people being tested. Clowney discusses why that might be and ways to increase testing in the county.