JPs create new jail position

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court voted to create the position of medical official in the sheriff's department at Monday night's meeting.

The position will be filled by an independent professional who carries liability insurance.

The professional will make weekly visits to the jail to visit patients. Additionally, they will be on-call for emergencies and be able to advise based on symptoms if an inmate needs to be taken to the hospital. Sheriff Jeff Yates said once a call is made, the medical official's insurance is in effect.

The cost for the professional Yates is planning to contract with is $1,500 monthly. Yates has been working with the professional on a trial basis and said that he saw 13 patients during his last visit.

Yates added that previously the department was paying at least $50 a person per visit, plus transport costs and time for the officer assigned to the inmate.

County Judge John Thomison said when they ran figures, they saw a substantial savings for the department in addition to having the liability coverage from the medical official.

The position was created on an 8-1 vote with Justice Lloyd Clark casting the nay vote. Clark said he would have liked more time with the ordinance before voting on it.

Funding approved
for district court

Justices also approved district court virtual system funding as presented by Thomison. The funding will be split between the county and the four cities that also use the district court system. Walnut Ridge, Hoxie, Black Rock and Ravenden will each pay $100 and the county will pay the balance of approximately $480 a month.

The virtual system was previously being funded through an additional fine placed on those in the court system using a payment plan. Judge Adam Weeks stopped collecting this fine as a large percentage went to the state, and it was making it harder for people to get their fines paid in full.

The motion carried to fund the district court system 8-1. Justice Bill Powell cast the dissenting vote. He commented he was not for the county paying for an expense those in the court system were meant to pay.

Justice Junior Briner said that funding for the virtual system would be designated from an excess of $36,000 the county has in the 2018 budget. The excess funds represent a line item that should have been removed but was still present when the budget was approved last month. The remaining excess will go into unappropriated funds.

In other business, justices:

approved longevity pay based on years of service. The motion passed on an 8-1 vote with Clark voting nay. Justices were in agreement that the budget needed to be looked at next year and pay scales needed to be fixed to eliminate longevity pay.

agreed to pay a rent increase of $50 a month on the building housing the deputy prosecuting attorney office. The court will be looking into moving that office into the courthouse next year.

approved the reappointment of Chris Penn to the Lawrence County, Arkansas, Public Education Facilities Board. The board oversees bond issues with Williams Baptist College.

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