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JP thanks EMS panel for work, cooperation

A justice of the peace who lost a business partner and friend in May thanked her colleagues and others for their hard work as part of a committee looking into emergency ambulance services in Van Buren County.

“Ya’ll worked hard together. It’s something good that has come out of Brett’s death,” Shannon Deckard said, her voice quivering slightly. “It tells us we should all work together. It’s a joint thing, we’re all part of this community. … Thank you all for your hard work.”

Deckard was referring to the death May 4 of local attorney and restaurant owner Brett Blakney. He died in an emergency room at Ozark Health Medical Ceneter hours after he was punched and struck his head on the sidewalk outside his Black Dog Grill. The event brought up concerns that no ambulance was available to transport Blakney to a Little Rock hospital that night even though, according to reports, the hospital never cleared Blakney for travel. Rosendo Meeks has been charged with manslaughter in Blakney’s death.

In the days following the incident, County Judge Roger Hooper formed a 13-member committee to look into ambulance services for the county. The panel came up with a proposal for entering into a franchise agreement with an ambulance company.

At last week’s Quorum Court meeting, JPs unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Hooper to enter into “an interlocal agreement with the mayors of Clinton, Damascus, Fairfield Bay and Shirley for the Van Buren County Advanced Life Support Ambulance Services.” The franchise is for a period of five years with a 90-day termination clause by either party.

Also at the meeting, Hooper told the JPs that the county’s 2011 Mack truck sustained $40,000 in damage after turning over. He said no one was hurt. The county’s dump trucks also have mechanical issues, he said.

From the sheriff’s office, Scott Bradley said that Dr. Jose Abiseid has stepped aside as the doctor for the county’s inmates. Bradley said the inmates are now being taken to the hospital for care.

Bradley also said he has bought four wrecked and repaired Crown Victoria automobiles from a business in Oklahoma for the department. He said the cost was $50,000 for them all.

Economic Development Executive Director Peter Giovannini told the JPs that there are two projects in the works to bring companies to the county. He said he was not at liberty to provide details yet, but that if “both come to fruition” they will bring about 400 jobs to the county.

County Board of Governors Chairman Donnie Collins filled the JPs in on spending and progress on the hospital expansion.

He said the contractor has completed about 53 percent of the work. There have been six change orders, costing about $135,000, and the changes have pushed back the completion date for the project to Nov. 8. Collins said he believes the work is still about six to eight weeks behind.

Also at the meeting the JPs:

• Unanimously passed an ordinance to appropriate the $89,600 the county has received from the Department of Arkansas Heritage preservation program.

• Unanimously passed an ordinance to appropriate $871,966 the county has received for the reconstruction and resurfacing of approximately four miles of road on Linn Creek/Whistle Stop roads project.

• Approved unanimously a resolution to name Olas Allen and Kenneth Whillock to the Equalization Board to replace Bob Patterson and Sonya Washington.

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