SEA Human Development Center management speaks to BCEDC about employee shortages, new construction projects, and free training offered

The operations of one of Bradley County’s largest employers were explained to Bradley County Economic Development Corp. board members Monday night.

By Tim Kessler

Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center Superintendent Mark Wargo and Assistant Superintendent Dana Harvey appeared before the board.

Wargo said the biggest challenge they faced was in getting enough employees who could pass a drug test. In recent applications, about 40 percent of the applicants could not pass the test.

Harvey said the center currently employs 234 workers, plus several contract workers, with room for about 60 more. They have an annual payroll of about $8.1 million. The center serves 90 clients and is licensed for 100. A majority of the employees live in Bradley County but several also live in surrounding counties.

Construction is nearing completion on a $1 million multipurpose building, with a second phase estimated at $500,000. Another $3 million will be spent to renovate four homes. A dining facility expansion is also planned.

Harvey said the center offers free CNA classes for workers but it is difficult filling LPN positions. Also, the Volunteer Council needs more community volunteers.

Vocational programs include shredding newspapers for recycling, which earns wages for clients. A contract with Kohler Corp. results in clients repairing bathroom fixtures.

The main goal of the center is to transition clients into the community setting, with several success stories made.

In other action:

  • Accountant Bob Milton said BCEDC had total assets of $818,000. Included in those assets were 20 acres worth $100,000 and a $560,000 spec building that were donated for a still-pending regional jail. Those assets are dependent upon the jail providing at least 78 jobs for 15 consecutive years. “If they don’t fulfill the contract, we get the land back,” said board treasurer Carlton Davis. Board Chairman Bob Smalling said the jail project would be discussed by the Executive Committee on Wednesday.
  • Banks Mayor Keeton Hudson said eight properties were cleaned up by the city. Construction will start soon on a new fire station. The Buck Fever Festival will be held the second weekend in November.
  • Warren Mayor Denisa Pennington said dirtwork had begun on the shooting range expansion and concrete work should begin soon. She said it is hoped the pistol/rifle range will be ready for use later this fall.

Pennington also said American Rescue Plan funds of $500,000 had been received and another $500,000 should be received next year. She said the money doesn’t have to be spent until 2024. Hudson said Banks had received $11,000 and will get the same amount next year. Hermitage also received some funds and Bradley County Judge Klay McKinney said the county will receive a total of $2,090,000.

  • McKinney said a committee had been formed to deal with a donation of 2.5 acres of land received from First Assembly of God. A COVID response building will be constructed on the site which will be used for vaccinations and testing, using the American Rescue Plan funds.
  • Upcoming activities in Warren include Market on Main, Sept. 14; Tent or Trunk, Oct. 30; Christmas parade, Dec. 10; and Christmas activities on the former Martin’s lot, Dec. 11.
  • Board member John Lipton, who also serves on the Southeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority board, said the SEARIFA board will have a special meeting Wednesday with Arkansas Department of Transportation officials to discuss right-of-way acquisition by the state from some of the Intermodal property to be used for the Interstate 65 Corridor.
  • Board member Steve Henson, who is the Bradley County Medical Center CEO, said the hospital is at full capacity. Most COVID-19 patients are being treated as outpatients, with seven positive cases reported on Monday. McKinney confirmed that there was an additional COVID death of a county resident on Saturday.
  • SEACBEC Director Devin McDiarmid said COVID precautions are being taken in all Warren schools, with mask mandates in place for students and social distancing being utilized. She said all SEACBEC students will be OSHA certified this year.

Top Photo: From left, Southeast Arkansas Human Development Center Superintendent Mark Wargo, Bradley County Economic Development Corp. board member Hugh Allen Quimby and Assistant SEAHDC Superintendent Dana Harvey attended Monday’s BCEDC board meeting.

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