MOUNT IDA – The new county administration implemented a new structure to quorum court meetings in an effort to provide residents with an opportunity to share their views regarding agenda items while preserving order in meetings.
After an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance County Judge Bart Williams introduced Prosecuting Attorney Debra Buschman. She commended the residents of Montgomery County by stating that they have the highest community involvement of any governing body she works with.
With that in mind, she pointed out that the rules of procedure for public meetings must be followed. In order to follow the rules of procedure while preserving the community’s right to speak the county judge has implemented a time for public comment at the beginning of each quorum court meeting. Agendas will be made available before each meeting and individuals will have an opportunity to speak on those issues.
Rick Sharp was the first to take advantage of the new public comment procedure.
He began by saying that he felt this new procedure robbed him of his 1st Amendment Right to Free Speech. However, he would follow the rules of procedure. He stated that he was against a continuation of the contract with SouthWest EMS to provide a second ambulance in Montgomery County. He said that he believes county money should be spent in the county. SouthWest EMS is based out of Mena. However, they do have an ambulance station in Mount Ida.
Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce Director Jeanie Brakefield invited the members of the quorum court to attend a public meeting regarding the upcoming total eclipse to happen in April 2024. The public meeting is open to the public and will be held in the old courtroom March 2 at 5:30 p.m.
Jack Lunceford addressed the quorum court. He stated that he has seen good results from the new administration and wanted to thank them.
After the conclusion of the public comment time the board moved to the issue of the ambulance contract.
Robby Hines, owner of SouthWest EMS addressed the quorum court.
He began by stating that SouthWest EMS has served Montgomery County for almost 20 years. He recapped the conversations in past quorum court meetings that led to a temporary three month contract between the county and his company to provide a second basic ambulance in the county.
Under the contract SouthWest EMS provided a second basic ambulance 12 hours a day seven days a week in Montgomery County. He added that they have continued to provide a second ambulance even though the contract expired December 31, 2022.
He stated that records reflect SouthWest EMS answered 80 calls and made 62 transports in January. He added that they need to average three calls a day per ambulance to support the cost of an ambulance. With that in mind, they are not getting enough transports to support two ambulances. He shared that payroll for the second ambulance is $14,270 per month. The county was paying $11,500 per month. This does not account for maintenance and fuel for the ambulance.
Hines stated that the issue boils down to a desire to reduce response time during a medical emergency.
Matt Rae made a motion to move forward with the bidding process to continue a second basic ambulance in Montgomery County. Melissa Powell seconded the motion. The motion passed 8-1 with Tommy Beshears casting the lone dissenting vote.
In new business:
Ordinance 2023-3 passed unanimously. The ordinance clarifies the date and location of quorum court meetings as approved in Ordinance 2023-2.
Ordinance 2023-4 passed unanimously. The ordinance amends Ordinance 2021-29 and Ordinance 2021-30. The ordinance appropriates $1,290.08 from the County Recorder’s Cost Fund to the County Recorder’s Cost Fund Budget to cover salaries. It also appropriates $64,787.32 from the Law Enforcement Sales Tax Fund to the Law Enforcement Sales Tax Fund Budget.
Ordinance 2023-5 passed unanimously. The ordinance amends Ordinance 2022-19 and Ordinance 2022-21.
Ordinance 2023-6 passed unanimously. The ordinance appropriates $13,437.21 from the US Treasury Fund to the US Treasury Fund Budget for volunteer fire departments search and rescue reimbursements for the calendar year 2022.
Ordinance 2023-7 passed unanimously. The ordinance creates an additional four full time detention supervisor positions, an additional two telecommunications operator positions and a food preparation specialist position in the county criminal justice complex. The new positions are funded in the 2023 annual operating budget.
Resolution 2023-1 passed unanimously. The resolution provides for the interim filling of vacancies for the office of Montgomery County Sheriff during times of emergencies. Montgomery County Sheriff Neal Thomas designated a list of three persons and the order of succession they are to follow. They include Chief Deputy Mike May, Jail Administrator Russ Carmack and Patrol Supervisor Andrew Thompson.
With no further business the meeting was adjourned.