Dive team sus­pended af­ter ar­rests

Two vol­un­teer mem­bers ac­cused of theft of ser­vices

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

BEN­TONVILLE — The Ben­ton County Dive Team has sus­pended op­er­a­tions af­ter the ar­rest of two mem­bers in con­nec­tion with theft of ser­vices.

Chris Perry and James Downum were vol­un­teers on the dive team, said Sgt. Shan­non Jenk­ins, a spokes­woman for the Sheriff’s Of­fice. They were ar­rested Thurs­day in con­nec­tion with theft of ser­vices. They are ac­cused of us­ing the dive team’s equip­ment for per­sonal busi­ness.

Perry and Downum were re­leased on ci­ta­tion. Their ar­raign­ments are at 8 a.m. Sept. 11 in Cir­cuit Judge Brad Kar­ren’s court.

Robert McGowen, emer­gency ser­vices ad­min­is­tra­tor, said Perry and Downum were ar­rested af­ter they al­legedly used a county pon­toon boat and div­ing equip­ment to raise a sunken boat for an­other in­di­vid­ual and were paid for the work.

The dive team op­er­ates un­der an in­de­pen­dent board, whose mem­bers are ap­pointed by the county judge. Vester Cripps, Gen­try fire chief and a mem­ber of the board, said the dive team is sus­pended in­def­i­nitely while the board tries to re­or­ga­nize the op­er­a­tion. The county will use the ser­vices of the Tri-County dive team in the in­terim, Cripps said. The Tri-County team cov­ers Car­roll, Madi­son and New­ton coun­ties, McGowen said.

“We’ve used Tri-County in the past to as­sist us,” Cripps said. “We’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship with

The dive team op­er­ates un­der an in­de­pen­dent board, whose mem­bers are ap­pointed by the county judge.

them and they’re well-qual­i­fied.”

The dive team board was es­tab­lished in 2009 af­ter con­flicts arose be­tween the two dive teams op­er­at­ing in the county. An or­di­nance cre­ated a board to be ap­pointed by the county judge. The board will now move to dis­solve and have the dive team placed un­der the au­thor­ity of the Sheriff’s Of­fice, Cripps said.

“The board voted to sus­pend all the op­er­a­tions of the cur­rent team,” Cripps said. “We’re go­ing to visit with the Quo­rum Court in re­gards to that or­di­nance. We are propos­ing to shift all of that op­er­a­tion un­der the Sheriff’s Of­fice.”

Brenda Guen­ther, comptroller, said the county has $57,500 bud­geted for the dive team in 2017. Of that, $500 goes to cover the cost of in­sur­ance for the vol­un­teers and the re­main­der is for sup­plies and other ser­vices, she said.

County Judge Barry Moehring said he sup­ports the idea of hav­ing the dive team shifted to the Sheriff’s Of­fice.

“That has been dis­cussed and I would sup­port that,” he said. “I think at this point that

it is very ap­pro­pri­ate that the Ben­ton County Dive Team be within the Sheriff’s Of­fice com­mand and con­trol over their board, and they should

also be able to be called out by the Sheriff’s Of­fice as needed. I fully sup­port the Sher­iffs Of­fice’s abil­ity to do that. They’ll do a great job.”

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