Sunday, January 4, 2009

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part XIV): Newton County is still crime-free

Three issues of the Newton County Times piled up here over the holidays, and now that I've had a chance to peruse them I'm happy to report no crimes significant enough to merit coverage during early to mid-December.

Indeed, only a few stories in the entirety of these issues are about criminal justice or any other aspect of law. I guess the most momentous crime-related story also relates to the county's budget crisis. Here's the scoop: 267 warrants are outstanding, and the amount of money that would be collected from these is more than $220K! That's about 15% of the county budget for the year, which suggests that collecting the money should be a high priority. As I wrote in an earlier post, I have no idea what these warrants are, but their details are part of the sheriff's report, so they must be linked to law enforcement. Maybe the reason they aren't be pursued is reflected in the old (rural) adage: you can't get blood from a turnip. That is, those who would be served the warrants may have not ability to pay.

In any event, in the issue two weeks earlier, a story reports that the District Judge told the Quorum Court (county administrative body) during a discussion of the county budget that if his office's budget is cut, it will curtail collection of fines that are a source of revenue for the county. I wonder if these fines are linked to the outstanding warrants.

In other news, there's lots of elk hunting, including an additional season, as well as a new county judge. Alltel is proposing to put in a cell phone tower near the county seat, which should certainly improve service in the county. Looks like the annual Christmas parade was a big hit.

There's also news of the renovation of a historic homestead in Boxley Valley. A Kansas business man bought the place after he saw it when passing through the area a few years ago. The home, which sits on 316 acres, had its beginnings as a log cabin in 1873. The businessman says he is "rehabilitating the house," which he plans to use as a retreat for his family, including his five grandchildren. Could this be the beginning of rural gentrification in Newton County?

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