Head Start asks county to
apply for building grant

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Barbara Sisco, program director of Head Start and Early Head Start, presented a proposal to the Lawrence County Quorum Court on Monday. The proposal encouraged the court to apply for federal stimulus money recently made available to construct a new Early Head Start facility that would serve 16 infants and toddlers, with the potential to increase service to 32. This is in addition to the Head Start programs already in place in the county.

There is a $325,000 grant available through the Arkansas Community and Economic Development program and an additional $50,000 grant from USDA Rural Development that can be used for this purpose. Lawrence County would need to supply a 20 percent matching grant, which equals approximately $60,000. The county money can be "in kind contributions," which is defined as a donation of goods or services rather than cash or appreciated property.

Once constructed, the facility would be owned by the county and completely funded and run by the Early Head Start program. There would be six to seven new jobs created and, through salaries, approximately $208,000 would come into the county annually.

"The need is here," Sisco said. "Right now there are 228 infants and toddlers in the county who would qualify for this program who do not have quality child care."

The Head Start and Early Head Start programs, run by Black River Area Development Corporation, presently serve over 400 low-income level children in Lawrence, Randolph and Clay counties, 56 of whom are infants and toddlers. Since 1965, Head Start programs have provided a comprehensive childcare development program that allows parents to work or attend school. To date there have been three new facilities built in the tri-county area in partnership with counties and cities using similar grants.

County Judge Alex Latham decided, with majority court member support, to submit pre-application paperwork for the grant money. The final decision will be made later if the county is approved to receive the stimulus grants.

County Sheriff Dan Ellison updated the court members on progress in replacing the communications tower that was destroyed during the January ice storm. The tower would serve the sheriff, road and county judge departments.

Bids were reviewed that met the requirements to build the tower. After some confusion and further research after the meeting, a vote of 5 to 4 in favor of accepting the lowest bid prevailed. The bid for $77,221 from the Paragould Safety Systems, Inc. was accepted. Construction, which may take up to six weeks, can begin immediately.

"We are in a dangerous situation here without a dependable communication system and need to move ahead as quickly as possible," Ellison said.

In other business:

  • an ordinance amending the jail fee from $5 to $20 was read for the first of three readings. This money would be used to defray costs associated with the jail, construction of a new jail or as otherwise provided by the law.

  • a "cleanup" ordinance was passed that amended the paperwork of the balanced 2008 budget expenditures and revenues.

  • an ordinance was passed that established mileage pay for private vehicle usage for county employees at 39 cents per mile. There will be no reimbursement for traveling to the post office or Walnut Ridge banks.

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