By Quinton Bagley
Little River News
The Little River County Quorum Court held its monthly March meeting on Monday, in North Courthouse Annex conference room.
JP Gene Smithson opened the meeting with a word of prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
The first two items on the agenda was the approval of the minutes of the February 2019 meeting and the treasurer’s report. Both were approved unanimously.
The next order of business was an ordinance concerning door-to-door sales within the county. The ordinance was originally brought to the court by Sheriff Bobby Walraven during the February meeting but tabled so that some language in the document could be clarified. The ordinance would require that any business and its employees that come into the county and want to go door to door to sell their products or services would have to apply for a permit with the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office would then do a background on the business and the employees to verify that they were legitimate business. The ordinance also states that if a resident has a ‘No Soliciting’ sign on their property, then the door-to-door sales people can not go onto the property.
JP Keith Pullen made a motion to adopt the ordinance and JP Chuck Davis seconded the motion. A roll call vote was taken with all eight present JPs voting to adopt the ordinance. The ordinance was put on a second and third reading and approved unanimously both times.
“This is long overdue,” Walraven said. “The City of Ashdown has had an ordinance life this for years. This is just another way that we can serve and protect our citizens and deter criminal activity.”
Walraven also reported that approximately $10,000 more had been paid in delinquent taxes at this point in the year than at the same time last year. He also stated that housing numbers at the jail were lower for the month as well as transport mileage.
Karen Steed with Little River Memorial Hospital spoke to the court next. She addressed a proposal made by the Little River County Jail Standards Committee requesting the financial impact of a reduction in funding of approximately $175,000 per year by means of reallocation of the county wide hospital tax of .5% that was approved by 65% percent of the voters in 2000 to be used for the operation and maintenance of the hospital and nursing home facility. Representatives of the Little River County Jail Standards Committee had meet with representatives from the hospital recently about the possibility of a reallocation of funds that would be used to construct a new jail.
According to the information provided by Steed, Little River Health System, which includes the hospital, nursing home, clinic and home health, not only provides health care for the citizens of the county but also has a major economic impact as well. According to the information:
– 168 lives have been saved in the emergency room from July 2017 to March 2019 with an average of 8-9 lives a month.
– Little River Health System has 228 employees and is the third largest employer in the county.
– 350 patients served in the emergency room each month.
– 1,512 patients served by therapy services each month (physical, occupational and speech).
– 556 patients receiving mammograms, ultrasounds or x-rays each month.
– 900 patients seen at Little River Memorial Hospital Clinic each month.
– 1,126 patients seen by Hospital Home Health each month.
– 99 patient days in the hospital each month with an average daily census of 3-4 patients.
– 83 patients in Little River Nursing Home each month.
– 4,626 total patient contacts each month.
According to the information presented by Steed, hospital operations are a break-even proposition at best. Thirty percent of the hospitals in Arkansas (almost all rural) receive local tax support, and the tax revenue ranges from $65,000 to $2.7 million. Little River is at the lower end of the tax support provided.
A reduction of $175,000.00 annually would have a devastating impact on the healthcare services rendered in Little River County. Staffing would be reduced in order to re-budget for radiology equipment. Routine maintenance projects would have to be delayed to budget constraints. Necessary electronic equipment such as updated computers and servers would have to be placed on hold indefinitely. The facilities are regulated by the federal government, and the hospital system can’t simply cut employees, reduce maintenance, and delay upgrades and remain in compliance with federal regulations. A reduction of this magnitude would result in closure of some or all the facilities and the elimination of many or all of the services provided.
Little River Memorial will always be challenged to provide state of the art equipment and cutting-edge care. The hospital is designed to provide emergent care and acute short-term inpatient care, as well as long term rehab beds.
However, it is much more than a hospital, the health system provides long term care for the elderly, clinic services for any Medicare or private insurance patients, physical therapy for those recovering from surgery, mammograms, and in-home health services to the homebound. The hospital system ensures that the citizens, young and old, have the widest range of medical services, in the convenience of their own community. Over the course of three months, the hospital system serves a number of patients equal to the entire population of our county. Without the financial support of the entire tax, we cannot continue this mission.
Following Steed was County Extension Agent Bethany Barney. Barney told the court that the application process to replace Sherry Beaty-Sullivan, who took a job in Polk County last month, had been completed and that they were hoping to schedule interviews soon and have someone in place by middle of April or the first of May.
Next on the agenda was County Judge Mike Cranford’s report to the court. Cranford told the court that his office was evaluating various roads with the State Aid engineers to determine a plan of action of this summer.
Cranford told the court that his office has received specifications for a new trash compactor and has submitted the advertisement soliciting bids.
Cranford told the court that bids to repair the courthouse columns were opened on March 5, and that work would start sometime in April. He added that during that time, the front entrance to the courthouse would be closed and that visitors would need to use either the south or north entrance.
With no further business before the court, the meeting was adjourned.