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UPDATE: Sheriff, Pleasant Plains mayor comment on end of interlocal agreement

An update to this story with comments from Independence County Sheriff Shawn Stephens and Pleasant Plains Mayor Kenneth Burns can be found by scrolling below.

At Monday evening’s meeting of the Independence County Quorum Court, Sheriff Shawn Stephens informed JPs the City of Pleasant Plains has decided to end its interlocal agreement with Independence County.

On May 13, the Pleasant Plains City Council approved an amendment terminating the 2017 agreement related to the sheriff’s department protecting the “persons and property” of the city’s citizens. According to a copy of the amendment, Stephens attended the May 13 meeting and also agreed to ending the agreement.

The amendment notes that “…no further performance will be owed by either party…” under the original agreement between May 13 and June 1.

No explanation was given as to why Pleasant Plains was ending the agreement. The original agreement noted that the City of Pleasant Plains was paying Independence County about $50,000 per year for the department’s service.

UPDATE, May 18, 2021, 2 p.m.: When contacted Tuesday morning about the termination of the agreement, Stephens told White River Now: “We were requested to attend a city council meeting on May 13. The interlocal agreement was discussed, and they voted to end it, and they asked if I would support it.”

“I will support it,” the sheriff said, “because if they don’t want to be in an agreement, there is no need in hiring someone who would be unemployed in six months. They indicated they were not happy with the agreement.”

Stephens said even though the city went through five deputies in four years, the council was running the agreement the way they wanted it.

Pleasant Plains Mayor Kenneth Burns told White River Now that, yes, there have been five deputies in four years, but three of those deputies left the city and went to work for the sheriff’s department.

The mayor said Pleasant Plains spent $74,700 on law enforcement in 2020, yet had no control over the officer, and that is why an officer set his work schedule to include working 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Burns said that type of schedule is of very little help when many issues occur during the late night.

For the current time, Mayor Burns said the city will rely on the Independence County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement when an officer is needed. Burns said that’s what the sheriff told the Independence County Quorum Court on Monday he would do — just like he does for the rest of the county.

One concern for Burns is that if, as it is his understanding, the county only has, at most, three officers on a shift at a time, then how do the citizens receive adequate law enforcement in a county the size of Independence County (750 square miles) with three officers per shift? The quorum court, Burns said, needs to take a look at the need for more deputies.

The mayor said Pleasant Plains does have an active watch program that will help some, but for now, Burns said they will let the sheriff do his job and provide an officer as needed.

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