Quorum Court hears hospital update; discusses lease on trash trucks


Monday’s Quorum Court meeting opened on a somber note as Drew County Judge Jessie Griffin asked for a moment of silence to honor Carole Bulloch, who served as a Quorum Court member for many years.

Following the moment of silence the court members voted to approve the agenda, to approve the previous meetings minutes, and to approve the Treasurer’s Report.

Judge Griffin reported that he would be headed to a road work seminar soon and would spend a few days there.  He also reported that all of the suggested changes to the Employee Handbook had been submitted.

The next order of business saw Scott Barrilleaux, the Chief Executive Officer of Drew Memorial Health Systems, give an update on the hospital. Barrilleaux informed the court that April began the fiscal year for the hospital, and that the volume of patients served last month was “a little under average”. He was happy to report that in the month of March the hospital turned a profit.

“It was nice to see for the first time in a while,” Barrilleaux added .

Barrilleaux then discussed the “item everyone wants to talk about”, being the Letter of Intent from Baptist Health Systems. He pointed out that the LOI is a non-binding agreement that only states that DMHS have full intentions of working toward a merger with Baptist.

“We have been spending time learning about Baptist, and they have been spending time getting to know us,” Barrilleaux stated. “People from Baptist have come in to look at various processes at DMHS and more are coming.” Barrilleaux stated that at the end of May he will be going to spend approximately three days at one of Baptist’s regional hospitals to get a better idea of how they operate, and how everything will potentially pan out in Monticello.

According to Barrilleaux, if the merger goes through, DMHS would be the biggest regional hospital in the Baptist network.

Barrilleaux noted one issue that still needs to be resolved.  He said that DMHS still needs to find a way to terminate the relationship with Cerner, who was in works to provide electronic medical records (EMR) systems for the hospital. The issues lies in the fact that Baptist uses their own system and would expect DMHS to use their system rather than Cerner.  Barrilleaux has contacted Cerner to get a cost for buyout, and was quoted $3.4 million to end the relationship. He said that this could impact the relationship to the point that Baptist walks away from the deal, but he feels certain that they will be able to reach a more agreeable deal and end the relationship with Cerner before that becomes an issue.

Barrilleaux also said that July 1 is still the target date, and by that date there will be changes at the hospital for sure.

Etoya Williams with the local Health Department came before the court to address budgetary issues. Under the current county judge her office was placed on a new phone system. Under the new plan, and the way the provider charges, she has almost depleted her yearly budget in the first four months of the year. Judge Griffin asked Williams to get all of the information that she could gather, and asked her to come back in July for the budget meeting and her issues, along with other county agencies would be addressed at that time.

Sean Matthews, regional consultant, of Roadway Management Technology (RMT) was present, and he had the CEO, Candlor McCollum, attending the meeting via Zoom.  McCollum stated that their business was an integrated solution.  They developed a system of hardware that can be mounted to fleet vehicles of the agencies they service. These installed devices would then passively collect data, such as road conditions, while the vehicles were driving which provides real time data of the streets and roads in the particular area serviced. The software is also able to analyze trends and is able to show actionable insights. This would show various candidates for treatment/repairs. RMT is based and founded in Little Rock. Griffin stated that the presentation by McCollum and Matthews was informational only at this point, and that no agreements have been made.

Drew County Sheriff Tim Nichols was next to address the court members. Nichols stated that the number of calls being seen each month has continually increased, and arrest numbers have been up as well.  The Drew Co. Jail is currently at maximum capacity, which he stated many of the other local jails are having the same problem. 

Nichols said that he recently hired a new deputy who is expected to start on May 19.

Nichols added that the county has filed an insurance claim on the leak in the roof.  He said that the adjuster had been out and now it is just a waiting game.

Nichols discussed the new phone system that the jail installed.  The new system will allow inmates to make video calls or texts to friends, family, and legal council for a small fee. Nichols added that these features don’t cost the county money, and serve as another source of revenue at this point. He also added that all of the jail staff is current on their required trainings.

Nichols also addressed training opportunities for deputies.  He pointed out that currently there is no money budgeted for training.  He added that there are free training classes out there, but they are few and far between.

“As sheriff, that is unacceptable,” said Nichols. “If you want deputies that are capable of handling things and expect them to be trained, we have to be able to provided them with that training.”

Nichols added that it wasn’t acceptable for the deputies or even himself to pay out of pocket for training.

He also brought up an evidence tracking software that he plans to purchase which would keep track of every piece of evidence collected, and it would keep a record of every time it was signed out and by whom. Nichols showed the court members a legal pad with some writing on it, and stated that this was the “gun inventory” he was given upon taking office.

“This is unacceptable as well, and we have to do better,” Nichols said.

Nichols closed by giving praise to the deputies and jail staff.  He said that he was very proud of the work they all do, and that they truly are a family.

The court members then heard and enacted an ordinance dealing with the purchase of a back-up generator for the 911 call center. The current generator is over 40 years old, and it has been repaired multiple times in the last year. The current generator lacks the power to run all of the computers in the facility, or the air conditioner which is vital in preventing the equipment from overheating. The new generator will cost $22,262, and the old generator will be kept in storage in the event it is needed in an emergency.

The court was also presented with an ordinance dealing with the procurement of mortuary supplies and how services are performed by the local coroner. The county coroner has been supplying these from his personal place of business, but state auditors have deemed these practices to be unfavorable.  This ordinance would allow the county to enter into a contract with the coroner rather just rely on appropriated funds. After a short deliberation, the ordinance was enacted.

The members of the court revisited the ordinance that would allow the county to lease two trash trucks which had been tabled until the court members could review maintenance fees and other logistics concerning the current trucks. Judge Griffin said that the company that he is in talks with would purchase the trucks that the county currently has, and cut a check to the county to then be applied to the costs associated with the new lease agreement. 

Drew Co. will owe no money toward this lease agreement until the trucks arrive on site, which could be 12-18 months according to a representative from the leasing agency.

After many questions and back and forth discussion, Judge Griffin made note that since there is money appropriated for the purchase of equipment, he didn’t have to ask the Quorum Court for permission, but he came to them out of respect and transparency.

“I need you all to understand that I need trash trucks,” Griffin stated. “How and when I get them is up to you.  Whatever you decide is what it is, I won’t come back and overrule you.”

This led to County Treasurer Charlie Searcy pointing out that there was no need to appropriate money at this time due to the fact that all funds must be re-appropriated in January.  If the trucks are a year out he explained that the money would just have to be discussed again so there was no point.

County Attorney Cliff Gibson stated that he had not had appropriate time to review the contract and didn’t feel comfortable speaking on it’s validity at the time of the meeting. This led to a motion to table the ordinance until Gibson could report back on the contract being solid or not. This motion passed by a majority vote.

In other business, the county is looking to enter into a contract with The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) and their heavy equipment program to do some work in an area of the landfill that needs to be closed. UAM would provide the equipment and students.  The cost of this agreement is $12,000 which covers the cost of equipment rental and fuel costs. The project is expected to begin May 15.

In the final piece of business, Judge Griffin announced that Hope Hartness had been reappointed to the Equalization Board.

The next Quorum Court meeting is scheduled for June 12.


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