May 15, 2013 Edition

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Special election set on
new tax for hospital

Susan Johnson
Contributing Writer

By a vote of 6-1, with two justices abstaining, the Lawrence County Quorum Court will let the people decide the fate of a proposed half-cent sales tax increase for hospital maintenance and operations.

Justice Donald Richey voted against the proposal, while Junior Briner and Jim Jones elected to abstain.

The tax proposal, which includes a 10-year sunset clause, will go before the people during a special election set for Aug. 13.

Lawrence Health Services CEO George Fray told justices at Monday evening's Quorum Court meeting that additional revenue is needed to continue operations at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Fray stated eight positions had been eliminated to offset the loss of revenue. However, the hospital was continuing to show a loss in revenue, and the nursing home was no longer able to cover those losses.

"The nursing home has always been able to make up for the hospital losses in the past," Fray said. "It (the nursing home) has been slowly falling off because patients now have more choices."

Fray added that he "didn't see any other way out" other than the additional sales tax. He reported that between July 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013, the hospital had shown a $424,250 loss.

County Judge Dale Freeman said "people need to realize we need the hospital."

Lawrence County voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 1995 for operations of the hospital's emergency room. That tax is set to discontinue in 2015.

In addition to adopting ordinances to set the special election, justices also amended the 1995 ordinance designating the sales tax to be used specifically for emergency room, expanding the existing tax to include all hospital operations.

In other business:

    o it was discussed that county law enforcement go by the state law for enforcing speed limits on any unmarked county roads. That speed limit is 40 miles per hour.

  • justices appropriated $2,074.19 for the Sedgwick Fire Department. The money was received through an Act 833 Grant from the Fire Protection Premium Fund.

  • the need for a new front end loader was discussed. The county will check with federal surplus to see if one is available.

  • justices tabled a decision on the hiring of a district probation officer until the June meeting.

  • justices voted to transfer funds from the tax assessor's reappraisal fund to the tax assessor's general budget to cover expenses paid for out of the general budget the previous month.

  • a cleanup ordinance for bills from 2012 that were paid in 2013 was approved, and anticipated revenue for the 2012 budget was increased by $190,000.

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