The Franklin County Quorum passed eight Ordinances 7/0, discussed 2014 budget adjustments and rejected a motion to vote on the budget in November, approved a resolution authorizing the County Judge to apply for a $400,000 loan on behalf of the Franklin County Library, heard a medical care report from the county jail healthcare management service and discussed possible reimbursement for two radios purchased by a township Constable.
Justices Mary Jane Cains and Freddy Ree were absent.
2014 Budget Talks Continue
Although not on the agenda, Franklin County Judge Janet Powell suggested passing the 2014 budget at the November meeting instead of waiting until December, saying the Court had already spent 3 1/2 hours in October and another ½ hour Thursday discussing the budget. She also noted that passing the budget in November would give Justices a clear idea of the un-appropriated funds available to reimburse Constable Scott McKenna who asked the Court to reimburse him for two radios he purchased for patrol use.
A subsequent motion passed to include a vote on the 2014 budget on November’s agenda, but Justices voted 2/5 against adopting the budget this month, possibly to allow absent Justices to participate in the final vote.
Justice David Hewitt asked former Franklin County Judge Joe Powell, who attended the meeting as Judge Janet Powell’s Assistant, to explain why so many items on the Transportation/County Roads budget were "way over budget".
Powell, who was head of the Transportation/Road Department during his administration, said that in spite of an earlier addition of $82,000 to the transportation budget, it still didn’t have enough funds to cover the continuing clean up work after the two 2011 tornados and the more recent flooding.
Powell also reminded Justices that Federal Disaster aid paid only 75% of the clean-up costs and that the county doesn’t get reimbursed for these costs right away.
Hewitt replied, "It’s kind of a wash then, isn’t it?"
Appropriation Ordinance 2013-22, which transferred $365,355 in anticipated revenue from State and Federal Aid and a corrected carry-over to the County Road Department, was voted on later in the meeting and passed 7/0.
Justices also voted 4/3 to delete a $500 clothing allowance from the County Tax Collectors budget. This adjustment was suggested by Justice Garrett Sheperd. Sheperd also suggested a motion to remove $3,000 from the part-time salary line in the County Treasurer’s budget, but this motion failed by a vote of 3/4.
County Treasurer Shelly Wilson, whose office is 100% funded, said the $3,000 line item might or might not be used and that her department would not use the money "helter-skelter". However, Wilson said she wanted to keep it in the budget if part-time help was needed to cover employee illnesses, vacations and for department training on new direct-deposit software.
Franklin County Library Board Member David Stobaugh asked Justices to approve Resolution 2013-10, which authorizes the County Judge to apply for a loan of up to a $400,000 from Bank of the Ozarks on behalf of the Franklin County Library to cover the remaining costs of the expansion. The Library Board has already set aside approximately $400,000 for the project, he added.
A similar loan of $650,000 on a five year term was secured for the Charleston Library expansion and Stobaugh said that loan was paid off in three years.
Total cost for the expansion is expected to total $750,000-$800,000. Justices approved this resolution by a vote of 7/0.
Jail Health Care Provider Report
Earlier this year, the Quorum Court hired Advanced Correctional Healthcare (ACH) to provide medical assessment services to the County Jail. ACH personnel provide a "head to toe medical screening" for incoming inmates and make medical decisions on how each inmate’s health complaint is handled on a case by case basis so each inmate receives the appropriate care. In the past, the jail administrator had to make these assessments, and usually sent inmates to the Mercy/Turner Emergency room as a medical precaution which cost the county more than $100 per visit.
Since ACH has been handling inmate health issues, a physician comes in every week to assess patient health and associated medical visits have been reduced. According to Sheba Randle, Regional Nurse Manager for ACH there were 34 "calls" in September, 22 calls in October of which only two inmates had to be sent out for treatment. In November, of nine complaints, only one inmate had been sent out for treatment, but because of recent fights among inmates, several others were sent to the Emergency Room. "Calls" include medical, dental and follow-up visits, said Randle.
ACH Sales Coordinator, Art Rose, told the Court that because ACH takes care of 30,000 inmates across the US, the company gets greatly discounted prices on medical, office and housekeeping supplies, even batteries. Rose said ACH could pass on these discounted prices saving to any "city entity" in the county, whether they purchase one item or 100 items. "A lot of these items can add up to thousands of dollars in savings," he said.
Prairie Township Constable Scott McKenna asked the Court to reimburse him for $2,073 he spent to purchase two communication radios (one for his vehicle and one handheld unit) for use while on-duty. McKenna, who patrols the Charleston area and is a certified law enforcement officer authorized to make traffic stops patrols, also works as a volunteer security/resource officer for the Charleston Public School District.
County Attorney Jim Mainard said that recent changes in the state statutes indicate that while purchases of emergency equipment (such as emergency lights) are reimbursable, the law does not stipulate whether or not radios are considered emergency equipment. Mainard also said that if McKenna’s radio purchases were reimbursed, it might open the door for more reimbursement claims by other county law enforcement personnel and said any future reimbursement claims would have to be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Rather than making a decision at the meeting, Justices agreed that the Franklin County Communication Committee composed of Justices David Bowles, Lacey Neissl, 911 Coordinator Randy Boren and Sheriff Anthony Boen would investigate the issue further and present their finding at an upcoming meeting.
Emergency Management Coordinator Fred Mullen stressed the need for maintaining a good emergency communication network throughout the county. AR leads the nation in drowning accidents and officers need to get there first, stressed Mullens.
"We have 18,000 citizens in 650 sq. miles and less than 200 first responders to serve the public. We need to find a way to help them do that," he said.
If the court decides to reimburse McKenna, the radios will become the property of the county.
Assistant County Sheriff, Devin Bramlett, said that the Sheriff’s Department would soon be going to digital radios (McKenna’s radios are capable of both analog and digital reception) and that the Sheriff’s Department does not have enough radios for all reserve officers at this time.
There are currently six Constables in Franklin County but only McKenna and one other Constable now communicate with the Sheriff’s Department by radio, Bramlett added.
The jail is averaging 47 inmates per week and because of the overcrowded situation, several fights between inmates have occurred which resulted in trips to the Mercy Turner Emergency room, said Bramlett.
Eight Ordinances passed 7/0 with little or no discussion. No millage or percentage rates changed from last year.
A large crowd of supporters of the Franklin County Learning Center were on hand to witness the unanimous approval of Ordinance 2013-23 which levies a voluntary tax of 1 mill on real estate and 1 mil on personal property to benefit the Learning Center.
A $2,500 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to the Veterans Memorial Gazebo at the Charleston Courthouse was appropriated under Ordinance 2013-18.
Appropriation Ordinance 2013-19 made line-item adjustments within the 2013 budget.
General Ordinance 2013-20 authorized the disbursement of $7,512 in funds received from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, with 25% going to the Conservation District and 75% to county schools based on their average daily mass.
Due to a short fall on the Jail Part time salary line, $7,500 was appropriated from Un-appropriated funds to the Jail fund under Appropriation Ordinance 2013-21.
Ordinance 2013-22 appropriated $365,355 in anticipated revenue to the Franklin County Road Department due to a short fall of funds.
Millage rates in 2014 for school districts in Franklin County passed unanimously under Ordinance 2013-24.
Ordinance 2013-25 levied 1 mil on real estate and 1 mil in personal property to the Franklin County Soil Conservation District .