June 11, 2008 Edition

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Justices change plans for addition

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Lawrence County Quorum Court members unanimously decided to convert the current library building into a courtroom to serve Lawrence County needs when the county begins leasing the building in 2009. The lease will run for 25 years. The front of the library is roughly the same size as the courtroom presently used in the courthouse.

Judge Alex Latham said, "We will have to remodel the library to be handicapped accessible, increase parking and have a judge's bench, among other things. A rough figure estimate is approximately $25,000."

Plans for building a courtroom off the courthouse, which have been in process for some time, are estimated close to $300,000.

Sheriff Ellison said that the library "meets all elements needed for a courtroom" after he evaluated the space. He said he did not foresee any problems with transportation of prisoners since the library courtroom would handle small claims court, drug court and misdemeanors. Trials involving felon charges would be conducted at the courthouse courtroom.

Lee Turnbull and Pat Whitmire discussed the needs of the Election Commission previously presented to the Quorum Court in March 2008. The list included a personal computer, filing cabinet, paper shredder, copier, Internet access, telephone service and small office space.

"The Election Commission has taken a lot of work off the county clerk's office and, with these items, I believe we can improve and streamline the process even more." Turnbull said.

The Court recognized the extremely smooth running of the last election and attributed it to the efforts of the Election Commission. The Election Commission was requested to once again put the request through the budget committee.

"We have already done that and it didn't work," said Turnbull.

Turnbull and Whitmire said they felt they could not continue working on the Election Commission without the needed itemsand left the meeting. After they left, Justice Craig Stone said he would assist the Election Commission to acquire the needed items through the budget committee process.

Darrell Geurin and Lee Stewart, both of Lynn, among others, discussed concerns regarding the cost of hauling gravel for roads from Sharp County.

"The gravel in Lawrence County is just as good, if laid correctly, as the gravel hauled from Sharp County. Why don't we haul out of Lawrence County?" said Geurin.

Geurin presented figures of $100,000-plus savings for Lawrence County in fuel cost alone.

Judge Latham discussed the complaints from some county residents because the Lawrence County gravel when first put down will produce red dust that sticks to vehicles and carports.

Geurin said, "If the gravel is compacted properly, then after three weeks there will be no more dust. It will be a solid road."

It was decided that Geurin would meet with Judge Latham and Keith Freeman, county road foreman, to discuss the figures presented by Geurin.

Lawrence County Health Services Interim Administrator George Fray gave a presentation on Lawrence Hall Nursing Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital. It was noted that the nursing home has an average daily census of 165 patients and recently received a certificate for a Respite Care Program.

"The nursing home has been highly regulated for at least 35 years. We are now looking to deregulate it some and make it more of a home-like atmosphere." Fray said.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital reported that the highest usage was from Lawrence County residents with 82.4percent, second was Randolph County with 8.4 percent. At LMH, there was an average inpatient count of 701 with the length of stay being approximately seven days. The hospital employs 350 employees and pays $11.54 million annually in salaries.

"The hospital continues to be solvent. This is a tough business. More than half of the hospitals lose money. Our goal is to be debt-free in the next three to four years. We've done quite a bit of belt-tightening, which has paid off," said Fray.

The hospital administration is planning several improvements for the hospital's Golden Jubilee. The building is almost 50 years old.

Many of the improvements will provide "long term payback in terms of utility bills," Fray said.

In other business Monday,

  • Dr. Seb Spades was appointed to the hospital board.

  • A three percent raise for all of the courthouse employees, retroactive to the first of 2008, was approved.

  • It was reported that all departments are within the budget allowances for the year. The areas of concern are the Sheriff Department and Road Departments due to fuel prices. Additional funds were appropriated in anticipation of the increased costs.

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