MEDC hears updated reports at first 2023 meeting
By Ashley Hogg
The Monticello Economic Development Commission January meeting was well attended by its board of directors and guests Wednesday, January 4.
The meeting opened with Chairman Bennie F. Ryburn III giving the totals for tax revenue for the previous month.
Among several board members’ reports, Drew Memorial Health System CEO Scott Barrilleaux updated everyone on the state of the hospital’s financials.
“Volume and revenue go hand in hand,” Barrilleaux stated. “We struggle with volumes and there is a number of factors that cause that struggle, including workforce.”
He went on to state that lack of staff is a statewide problem and that he hopes to be able to do something to help legislatively with his new appointment to the Arkansas Hospital Association Council for Government Relations.
“It’s a real issue,” Barrilleaux continued. “We have had some success with negotiating some rate increases with some insurance companies and we are working on a couple of others. Medicare has given hospitals across the nation around four and a half percent increase. None of that is enough to get us to the point where our revenue is covering our expenses. It costs us more to take care of a patient than what we are being paid. That is not a good formula and eventually, something is going to have to give. We are looking at all sorts of ways we can make this thing balance.”
He went on to say that the hospital is waiting on answers to grants that they have applied for and that staffing remains their biggest challenge at this time.
“I will ask for the patience of the community when they come to the Emergency Room,” Barrilleaux said. “We often will have patients in rooms waiting for hours to get in a room.”
The University of Arkansas at Monticello Chancellor Dr. Peggy Doss gave a spirited report about the coming semester for UAM and what the university means to the area.
“We’ve done some renovations to the campus,” Dr. Doss stated. “I invite everyone to come out and look at the new entrance to Willard Hall, the school of education building. In addition, we continue to do renovations to our math and science building with panting and window repairs. We are still looking for funding for a new HVAC system for that building. We have acquired grants for upgrading certain things in the science labs like hoods in the chemistry labs.”
Doss went on to say that she has charged Dr. Matt Pelkki to conduct an economic impact study on the salaries from UAM and how they affect the local economy. Representatives from UAM are in constant contact with elected officials to make sure a voice for UAM is heard in the legislature.
Newly sworn in Mayor of Monticello Jason Akers commended Dr. Doss for her passion about UAM and all the current efforts going on at this time to keep UAM the most affordable four year University in the state.
The Mayor also mentioned his approval of having City Inspector Brian Rodgers working as a City employee now and they will work on getting Rodgers to be able to write citations for ordinance violations.
Brian Rodgers addressed the group stating that this year’s SNAP drive was a success. All applications were filled and even though some rules had been changed, all 16 applicants should be able to be fully funded within the next month and repairs can begin.
The SNAP program happens once a year and is designed to make necessary home improvements for low income senior citizens.