County Judge discusses federal infrastructure funds for rural counties

Bradley County Quorum Court justices, meeting a day late because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, Tuesday discussed the possibility of getting federal infrastructure funds for county projects.

By Tim Kessler

County Judge Klay McKinney said the new infrastructure bill will include a large amount of money for rural counties, such as Bradley. Federal funds would provide 80 percent of the cost of such projects, with the county paying the other 20 percent. McKinney noted the county still has five to six wooden bridges which need to be replaced, including one slated to be replaced this year on Bradley County 22.

“We need to think long-term on infrastructure projects,” McKinney said. He added that Gov. Asa Hutchinson has created a task force to look at grant funds for the counties.

In other infrastructure discussion, McKinney said 2 ½ miles of Bradley County 8 and 4 miles of Bradley County 32 will be resurfaced this year under state aid projects totaling about $400,000. The state will pay 85 percent of the cost and the county will pay 15 percent.

Another major project is renovation of the bell tower. CADM Architectural Co. and Southern Diversified, both of El Dorado, are handling the project. “The only thing holding the bell in place was the bell itself,” McKinney said, adding that major reconstruction will be needed.

In other action:

  • Interim Bradley County Medical Center CEO Leslie Huitt told the court that due to turnover and COVID restrictions, “One of the biggest problems we’re facing is staffing.” About 15-16 staff members are out now with COVID. Of the entire staff, about 94 percent are vaccinated and about 14 staff members are unvaccinated.
  • Under the Sheriff’s Department report, McKinney commented that Ordinance 609 (jail maintenance fund) had brought in $66,270.36 last year. Virtual Justice fines totaled $138,478.52; Circuit Court fines, $7,550.45; and liquor sales tax (on private clubs), $2,530.12.
  • There were 142 transports totaling 13,273 miles, 658 papers served, 372 tickets/citations issued, 41 felony cases filed and 31 misdemeanor cases.
  • McKinney said the Arkansas Association of County Judges will meet in two weeks to discuss disposition of CARES Act funding.
  • Ordinance 769 was approved to update county employees COVID regulations. If an employee tests positive, they may receive paid time off for up to five days per occurrence. After that, they must use their sick leave, which accrues at one day per month and may be saved up to 25 days.
  • Justice Jim Anders was elected as a delegate to the Arkansas Association of Quorum Courts.
  • McKinney said he had talked to Drew County Judge Bob Akin about the original agreement with LaSalle Corrections about a regional jail project but no decisions had been made.
  • McKinney noted that filing for county officials’ positions will begin in February. A District 9 JP seat remains vacant but he said he expects Hutchinson to appoint a replacement by next month. That person cannot run for reelection to a full term. McKinney also announced he will be a candidate for reelection to another four-year term.

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