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Prairie County

By Scott Perkins County Lines Editor

northern county seat, experienced a population decrease of about 20 percent from approximately 2,200 to only 1,700. It has endured tough times economically, but on the backs of good people, it has also perse- vered to higher ground. Te adversity facing this small rural county will likely continue, however, Prairie Countians make the most with what they have and they do it together. “We’re lucky. We have really great employees. We don’t have a lot of


money, but we do what we can and I think people understand that,” said Mike Skarda, lifelong Prairie County resident and Prairie County Judge. “Tis community has always had to get things done with less resources than most of our brother and sister counties. It’s in our blood. I have a great love for all of Prairie County and its people. I have had a very blessed life and I want to use the office of county judge to help people and to make our county a better place to live.” Members of the Prairie County Quorum Court have had to make a lot of hard decisions during the years. In a county with a limited tax base, it takes a lot of creative thinking to make a budget work. “I am blessed to have quorum court members and elected officials who understand financing and are willing to put in the hours that are needed to make budgets work,” Skarda said. Prairie County’s annual budget is only $1.9 million in county general and $1.6 million in the road department. Te county boasts more than 630 miles of county-maintained roads. Te county has managed to chip and seal about one or two miles of road each year at a cost of about $35,000 per mile. “I’m very proud of the ability to keep our roads maintained. We have

paved a few miles every year and that has been a great blessing to many communities,” Skarda said. Te road department’s graders and heavy equipment were in rough shape several years ago, according to Billy Don Johnson, Prairie County Northern District Road Foreman. “He’s [Skarda] done really well to upgrade our equipment,” Johnson

said. “We were spending more money maintaining the older equip- ment. It’s less expensive to lease the equipment we do now.” Johnson said the 12 road department employees also do a great job of taking care of the leased equipment as they maintain the county’s


rairie County, like many other Arkansas Delta counties, has experienced a population decrease during the last several years that has dampened and stagnated its revenues and re- sources. During that time period, Des Arc, Prairie County’s

all about people

approximate 3,000 pipe culverts, hundreds of miles of roads and about 35 bridges. “Nobody dreads coming to work,” Johnson said. “Mike is a joy to

work for, he lets us do our jobs and he gets out and about and enjoys mingling with the public.” Skarda also said without the grant-writing efforts of Sandra Patterson, who is the county’s Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, the road department would be in “pitiful shape.” Patterson has been the OEM coordinator in Prairie County for 23 years. Prairie County is unique in that it is divided into two districts. Te

northern district courthouse is located in Des Arc and the southern district courthouse is in DeValls Bluff. Te county is made up of small towns and tight-knit communities and Skarda says they have some of the most dedicated people in the world living in the county. Te school crisis in 1982 is a very good indication of their dedication. In 1983, Des Arc was faced with a financial crisis that almost closed the public school. After a series of public meetings were held to save the school, the community raised about $150,000 of private money to keep the school open. “Never in my life had I been more proud of a community as I was at that time,” Skarda said.

Te completion of the County Health Building in 2008 has also been a great benefit to the citizens. “Te greatest challenge is trying to find a way to operate a small rural county which has no type of industry and whose tax base comes from



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