County Judge gives updates; QC passes several appropriations


After a long night that consisted of a Finance Committee meeting, and an emergency meeting of the county's Grievance Committee, the Drew County Quorum Court held their regularly stated meeting on Monday, September 11.
The meeting opened with Rev. Darrion Buffington giving an invocation, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. The court members then approved the agenda for the meeting as well as the minutes from the August meeting.
County Treasurer, Charlie Searcy, gave his report to the court. The County General fund is negative $547,873.69 which is on track for where the county was this time last year. The Quarter Cent Sales Tax fund has $5.4 million. There are currently $890,000 remaining in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which will be used to pay the remaining balance on courthouse repairs.
"We are trending steady compared to last year," Searcy said. "The biggest part of our tax collection will happen in the next couple of months. We should see a change for the better, a little bit, over the next couple of months."
"Be advised, maintenance on trash trucks is killing us," County Judge Jessie Griffin said during his comments. "We hope to have another truck up and running this week. If you look at the numbers, our sanitation is way out of whack, but these are things we can't control."
Judge Griffin said that through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), there is new management at the landfill. There is a new engineering company coming in that will hopefully manage it better. Work is still being done to close out certain sections in the landfills.
The sanitation workers met with Big Smith, who will take over trash collection for the county on October 1. During this meeting, they went over maps of the routes. There will be another meeting this week where the drivers will discuss the routes and which way the trucks need to run to make sure everything is covered. County drivers will ride with Big Smith's operators for a few weeks to help make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.
"They will make some mistakes early on, but we need everyone to be patient with them," added Griffin.
Judge Griffin also made note of the fact that in his nine months as county judge, he has yet to be called to a town meeting regarding issues in the county. He asked the Justices to please let him know if there are issues in their areas. He would be more than happy to talk about them, but he has to be aware of them first.
Judy Calhoun, Director of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Library, came before the court to give an update on things going on at the library. She stated that the library system covers five counties, and in those counties, there are a total of nine libraries, with Monticello being the headquarters.
Calhoun said that on Fridays, the Monticello branch is giving away children's books at no cost. To date, they have given away over 400 books, which were donated by the non-profit Child Aware. This giveaway will continue until the end of the year.
On Tuesday, September 12, there was a puppet show of Sleepy Hollow, and coming in October, they will host their third "Boo Walk".
Calhoun added that the Monticello Library sees approximately 2,000 people every month.
Drew Memorial Health Systems Chief Executive Officer, Scott Barrilleaux reported on the hospital for August. He stated that the hospital has hired a new OBGYN.
"This is good news. We want to be the Women's Clinic of Southeast Arkansas, as well as the Health Center of Southeast Arkansas," Barrilleaux added.
Barrilleaux added that in August the hospital saw some yearly highs. When compared to July which had quite a few yearly lows, he said it was nice to see that rebound. Barrilleaux said that the average daily census in August was 30, which was a yearly high. There were also 31 deliveries which was once again a yearly high. The Emergency Room had 885 visits which was a yearly high. Barrilleaux said that this isn't necessarily one of those highs you want to see, but he was glad that DMHS was there for those 885 people when they needed help. Barrilleaux said that the financial statements haven't come out for August, but he expects to see some nice financial results in August which is great considering they lost $1 million in July.
Barrilleaux said that Year to Date, there is a net profit of $4.6 million. This number is due in large part to ARPA funds the hospital received, and due to some Employee Retention Tax Credit funds earned during the COVID Pandemic.
As for the Baptist Health merger, Barrilleaux said that neither the management agreement nor the sublease agreement have been executed. He said they are incredibly close. The only hurdle in the way is trying to settle with Cerner.
"We are close, almost there," Barrilleaux said. "I anticipate that we will execute those documents in the coming days. Maybe even this week."
Sheriff Tim Nichols said that with school starting back, he and his deputies have been very involved at all of the campuses for both school districts. He added that a list of all sex offenders in Drew County has been sent to every school campus. They have also picked up five cases of Narcan from Little Rock. These have been distributed to deputies, police officers, school staff, and many others. Nichols said that this is just another tool to help keep our citizens safe.
In new business, the Arkansas General Assembly made it mandatory for all counties to adopt a Personnel Policy respecting Technology Resources. The court voted to pass a resolution and add this to the employee handbook.
The court members also passed an appropriation ordinance to pay Big Smith for October, November, and December for their trash pick-up services.
An emergency ordinance was passed that will allow the county clerk to solemnize marriages to Drew County citizens in the courthouse at no cost.
The court members passed another appropriation ordinance that will pay to have the roof replaced on the Drew County Detention Facility.
In the final piece of new business, the members of the court voted to approve an appropriation order that would pay 10 percent matching funds for the Health Department Building Grant. This will cost the county more than $60,000 according to the estimates of the project cost.
With no further business, the meeting was adjourned until the next scheduled meeting.