HEBER SPRINGS — Ambulances were again the topic at the monthly Quorum Court meeting held Thursday night, Sept. 10. Justices heard about issues regarding ambulance service in the county and volunteers for regional ambulance services.
The court also addressed support for Issue 1, scheduled for the November ballot along with its routine business.
The ambulance issue was presented to the court by City of Quitman Mayor Cyndi Kerr. Kerr explained to the court that Quitman and the surrounding area was having an issue with ambulance service from two points. The first being that developing a stable base of volunteers was difficult, the second being that ambulance service in the county when volunteer services were not available came down to Survival Flight, the franchise holder with the City of Heber Springs, which had no contracted arrangement with the county.
The justices were reminded several times that while Kerr was speaking as the mayor of Quitman, the problem, including the problem for the Quitman volunteer ambulance service, extended out into the county, beyond Quitman city limits. The problem with low numbers of volunteers impacted ambulance availability was a county-wide problem, she said.
“Please take my plea seriously,” Kerr said. “It’s not a City of Quitman issue, it’s a county and city issue,” she said.
Kerr demonstrated the problem by with the story of the stroke victim (in a pre- Survival Flight time) in her city and an hour wait for an ambulance, the problem being no volunteers available to staff the local ambulance which would otherwise transport the patient.
“[The days of] great volunteer numbers is a thing of the past,” Kerr said, explaining how people are willing to volunteer, but the demands of work and family often make them unavailable to staff an ambulance.
Survival Flight had previously signed a mutual aid agreement with the county which allowed it to serve areas outside its Heber Springs -granted franchise. The problem was, Survival Flight Regional Clinical Manager Shaine Keesler said, was that under the current contract arrangements, Survival Flight had equipment and personnel on hand to serve its City of Heber Springs contract.
While it has not happened, a possibility exists that a Survival Flight ambulance would not be available for dispatch for a county call if all ambulances are currently serving a need in the contracted, Heber Springs, service area.
If Survival Flight added an Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance to meet county needs, it would cost at least $300,000 a year in additional salary, Keesler said.
Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes said the county was not asking the city to fund an ambulance for the county. At the same time he acknowledged it was getting harder to find volunteers for ambulance services.
“We treasure our volunteers, but they are getting hard to find,” Holmes said.
Kerr was asked to speak as she was the first to bring the matter to his attention, Holmes said.
A justice pointed out that it was the court’s responsibility to plan for worst-case circumstance, where, possibly, no volunteers were available to staff local ambulance services.
The discussion concluded with the Judge stating the most likely route to take would be a for-fee service to provide an ambulance service county-wide. This “...may require a special election,” he said.
A resolution in support of Issue 1 on the November ballot brought some discussion from the justices, and the gallery.
The issue is to extend the one-half percent sales and use tax currently in place for state highway funding to continue past its June 30, 2023 expiration date.
The discussion came into two areas, with the first being not only anti-tax, but also, as was pointed out from the gallery, that Issue 1 as proposed had no expiration date, allowing the one-half percent to continue in perpetuity. Justice Malone expressed additional concern that the vote on the resolution was the court taking a political stance.
The counter to this was, of course, state highway maintenance, with Holmes pointing out that the removal of the tax in 2023 would have a significant impact on the county’s general fund of approximately $730,000.
The resolution passed in a 6-4 vote.
The court officially declared a vacancy in its District 9 position, as former Justice Phil Grace had left the area and was no longer available to serve. Justice Jay Cupt served his first Quorum Court meeting, taking a recently-vacated seat.
Cleburne County Treasurer Pam Gray told the court that tax revenues, expected to drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had actually gone up slightly over the past few months.
Justices approved funding for a new phone system for the county health department.
The broadband grant discussed at the previous month’s meeting had been approved. Additional broadband infrastructure was being discussed with First Electric, Holmes told the court.
LITTLE ROCK — A Clarksville man was sentenced Sept. 11 for his role in a methamphetamine conspiracy that involved members of a white supremacist gang. Skippy Sanders, 37, was sentenced to 262 months in federal prison by United States District Judge Brian S. Miller. Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced today’s sentencing.
Sanders pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more, but less than 15 kilograms, of methamphetamine on October 23, 2019. In addition to the term of 262 months’ imprisonment, Judge Miller also sentenced Sanders to five years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.
In 2016, local and federal agencies initiated a joint investigation to identify, infiltrate, and dismantle drug trafficking organizations in Russellville. Agents identified multiple individuals who were trafficking methamphetamine in the Pope County area. The investigation revealed that Sanders obtained pound quantities of methamphetamine from known members of New Aryan Empire (NAE), a white supremacist organization that began as a prison gang, and later sold the methamphetamine.
“Today’s sentence in Operation ‘To The Dirt’ is an important step in pushing back against the turmoil brought about by gang activity in the River Valley,” said Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute methamphetamine distribution in this as well as other corrupt organizations.”
Sanders was charged on October 3, 2017, in a federal indictment that charged 44 people from the Pope County area with numerous gun and drug violations. The case is named “To The Dirt,” a reference to the NAE slogan referring to the rule that members must remain in the NAE until they die.
A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment on February 5, 2019, which named 11 additional defendants and added charges for the defendants’ involvement in acts involving attempted murder, kidnapping, maiming, and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Of the 55 total defendants charged in “Operation ‘To The Dirt,’” 26 defendants have pleaded guilty, and five of those defendants have already been sentenced to prison terms: Jared Dale, 84 months; Britanny Conner, 120 months; Keith Savage, 120 months; Joseph Pridmore, 150 months; Daniel Adame, 262 months. The remaining defendants are awaiting trial.
The investigation included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Pope County Sheriff’s Office and the Russellville Police Department.
HEBER SPRINGS — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials ask property owners living near Greers Ferry Lake to avoid unauthorized work on public property. They also want lake users and landowners adjacent to the lake to know that tying up boats along the shoreline and operating vehicles off authorized roadways on public property is prohibited.
It is imperative that adjacent landowners learn where the government property line is and avoid unauthorized activities on government land. Only certain alterations can be authorized on public property, these must be approved in writing before work can begin. Violators are subject to a range of penalties under the law for unauthorized activities.
Boat owners are reminded to remove their boats from the shoreline. Boats left unattended on the shoreline could break loose from their moorings during storms and become floating hazards, while others could become stranded on the shoreline as lake levels fall. Vessels left on the lake must be moored at either a commercial marina or a private dock when not in use. Otherwise, they must be removed from the lake and stored on private property, not on public land.
The Corps will patrol the lake to identify boats not in compliance. Boats remaining on the lake in violation of these rules may be impounded, with the owner subject to citation. The Corps will also remove unauthorized buoys anchored in the lake.
Regulations prohibit the operation of vehicles off authorized roadways on project land. This applies to all vehicles, including four-wheel-drive, off road, and all-terrain vehicles. Driving off road destroys public property and degrades the shoreline. If caught, violators could be required to appear before a U.S. magistrate in federal court.
If you see someone operating a vehicle off authorized roadways on public property, please notify the Corps at 501-362-2416. Try to obtain a license number or vehicle description, but do not try to apprehend or confront the individual. The government will prosecute these acts to the fullest extent of the law.
For more information concerning the use of government property, call the Greers Ferry Project Office at 501-362-2416 or stop by the office located near the dam on Highway 25, three miles north of Heber Springs between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Recreation information can be found on the Internet at www.swl.usace.army.mil.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced a record number of new cases in a 24-hour period during his last daily briefing on Friday.
The state reported 1,107 new cases since Thursday.
“This is something I actually expected,” the governor said. “We see that pattern. We go for a number of days with lower numbers and then we see it shoot up. We don’t want to minimize it; we want to keep watching it and not overreact.”
The governor said that of the 1,107 new cases, 225 positives came from one lab and 1/3 of those (roughly 75) were from last week and were only reported to the Arkansas Department of Health in the previous 24 hours.
“You see that when dealing with commercial labs,” the governor said, reiterating the importance of partnering with Baptist Health to increase the testing capacity of the public health labs.
The governor said Friday the state had done 7,801 PCR tests and 459 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours. The 78 positive antigen tests are not included in the state’s cumulative totals until they are verified with a positive PCR test, per the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) guidelines.
The governor said it was possible the jump in cases was related to Labor Day activities and reminded Arkansans to use the methods we know to work to mitigate the spread of the virus – stay at least 6 feet away from people outside of your household, wear face masks over your mouths and noses when social distancing isn’t feasible and wash your hands with soap and water frequently throughout the day.
The governor will shift to weekly briefings or on an as-needed basis starting next week. He will have his weekly briefing next Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the briefings would be on Tuesday each week.
In the past six months, 953 Arkansans have died as a result of COVID-19.
FAIRFIELD BAY — At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, Sept. 14, the City of Fairfield Bay City Council voted Linda Duncan as City of Fairfield Bay Mayor.
Duncan had previously service on the council. She is completing the term of former Mayor Paul Wellenberger, who officially retired Aug. 31. Duncan’s term runs through Dec. 31, 2022.
Duncan does not see any major changes being undertaken with her appointment as Mayor.
“I’m not planning on making any major changes at all,” she said. “I am planning on working closely with the resort board.”
Two immediate areas she will address is the city’s grant submissions and the completion of the hangar for the Survival Flight helicopter and crew.
LITTLE ROCK — Donette Spann has been named administrator of the Arkansas Beef Council, the farmer-funded promotion agency that oversees and administers the Beef Checkoff Program in Arkansas. She replaces the recently retired Travis Justice.
Spann has worked since 2001 as promotions director for the Arkansas Beef Council, where she led consumer education efforts, including outreach efforts concerning the purchase, preparation, cooking and food safety for beef products. A native of Niangua, Mo., Spann holds a degree in animal science from Missouri State University. She is a board member for Arkansas Women in Agriculture, and a past volunteer for Riverfest.
“Donette is well known to Arkansas cattle producers,” said Caleb Plyler of Hope, chairman of the Arkansas Beef Council. “She has been a very visible part of the efforts of the Arkansas Beef Council for the past two decades, and we are excited about the energy and vision she will bring to this role.
“The beef producers of Arkansas count on the Arkansas Beef Council to add value to the cattle we raise. Some of the new marketing efforts of the Beef Council are focused on value-added, conventient beef products designed to meet today’s consumers’ needs for quick, easy meals.”
Plyler said other examples of current Beef Council programs include nutrition education for health professionals, education kits for students; efforts to work with foodservice proprietors to increase beef demand; partnerships with retailers to make shopping for beef easier.
The Arkansas Farm Bureau provides staff, office space and related support to the Arkansas Beef Council.