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Quorum Court “gets the ball rolling” with SouthWest EMS

DEWAYNE HOLLOWAY|dewayne@mcnews.online
MOUNT IDA – Justices of the Peace decided to pursue a deal with SouthWest EMS to add a part-time basic truck in service in Montgomery County at the end of their regularly scheduled meeting Monday, September 12.
The meeting was preceded by a meal prepared and presented by the staff of the Montgomery County Extension Office.

An ambulance owned by SouthWest EMS answers a call for medical assistance at the scene of an accident near Mount Ida. – Photo by Dewayne Holloway

Extension agents Randy Black and Amy Monk opened the meeting with presentations regarding the programs and services offered through their respective offices. They were joined by Cora Hicks, the new 4-H coordinator for Montgomery County. She shared information regarding 4-H programs and individual member recognition.
The JPs then moved on to business on the agenda.
They passed an appropriation ordinance for a one time salary stipend for full-time law enforcement officers on the county payroll. The stipend was in accordance with Act 224 passed in the 2022 fiscal session of the Arkansas Legislature.
Each certified full-time law enforcement officer will receive a one time $5,000 stipend paid for out of funds provided through a state grant fund. County Judge Sammy Jones stated that the $5,000 stipend would be taxed. The county will have to pay retirement on the amount.
The ordinance also amended the annual operating budget for the 2022 calendar year to reflect the stipend and state grant fund money.
The JPs approved an ordinance appropriating money to the county recorder’s cost fund budget.
The ordinance appropriates $7,261.77 for the purchase of a new server, scanner and three public workstations to be housed in the clerk’s office.
County Judge Sammy Jones presented the 2021 Arkansas Legislative Audit to the JPs.
There were three findings on the audit.
The first finding was due to no documentation reporting that the quorum court reviewed the 2020 Arkansas Legislative Audit report during the first regularly scheduled meeting following receipt of the report as required by state law.
The response stated that the county will review the prior year’s audit report at the next scheduled meeting and will ensure that all future reports are reviewed as required.
The second finding reported that the Sheriff’s Office cash receipts exceeded bank deposits by $1,560 during the period January 1, 2021 and January 10, 2022. The report alleges that receipts were altered to conceal the unaccounted for funds. The administrative assistant, who was custodian for the funds, resigned on January 10, 2022.
The response stated that the sheriff’s office has put controls in place to help prevent this from happening again.
The final finding reported that the balance remaining in the bond and Fine Account of $24,658 was not identified with receipts issued but not yet adjudicated as required by state law.
The response states that the sheriff’s office ahs identified where a large portion of the funds go. The sheriff will try to determine the disposition of the rest of the unidentified receipts.
The findings were not read aloud during the meeting and there was no discussion.
Discussion turned to the ambulance service in Montgomery County once again.
Judge Sammy Jones stated that he had been informed that the communication issues Pafford was having had been rectified. JP Melissa Powell stated that they were still getting lost and that she had to flag one down over the weekend to help them find where they were going.
ADEM County Coordinator Dave Kimball stated that he had met with the Pafford CFO recently and had been assured that the issue had been taken care of. He assured everyone that he would look into the matter again and asked Powell to contact him the next time she became aware of a lack of communication with Pafford drivers.
Robby Hines spoke once again with the JPs regarding the possible addition of a part-time basic truck in service in Montgomery County.
He stated that he was willing to set it up for a three month period staffing it with employees from Mena as a trial period.
Judge Jones shared concerns about funding the contract the county would enter into with SouthWest EMS if the JPs decide to do this. The first year could be covered by available federal funds, but subsequent years would have to come from county coffers. The Judge pointed out that oftentimes there is only $30,000 to $40,000 left after the annual budget is finalized. This would not be enough to cover the $140,000 plus contract with SouthWest EMS.
JP Matt Rae asked Hines if his company would be able to retain the employees if the county can’t fund the truck after one year. Hines said he would.
Rae made a motion to take a roll call vote to gauge support for the contract. The vote was unanimous in favor of the county entering into a contract with SouthWest EMS to base a part-time basic truck in Montgomery County.
This would provide a basic truck manned by an EMT for 12 hours a day in addition to the ambulance crew that is currently based in Montgomery County.
The JPs will vote next month to enter into a contract with SouthWest EMS. They are planning on having the second truck available as soon as October 1 of this year.
Judge Jones asked county attorney Debra Bushman to see if the project would have to be bidded out.
In other business, County Judge Sammy Jones informed the JPs that Caddo Hills High School Principal Justin Neel invited the quorum court to hold their meeting at the school so they could see the progress of current construction projects at the school. He stated that he would have to check on the legality of doing so.
After the meeting Bushman informed Jones that state law requires the meetings to be held at a fixed location. If they were to pass an ordinance to move the meeting to Caddo Hills School it would become the permanent meeting place until another ordinance was passed to relocate the meeting back to the courtroom in the criminal justice facility.

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