Benton County quorum court hears update on four days of early voting

BENTONVILLE — The Quorum Court heard a quick update on early voting Thursday night.

County Clerk Betsy Harrell told the 15-member Quorum Court that there were no major issues with the vote.

“We have great election staff who work year-round to make sure everything runs smoothly,” she said.

A total of 16,379 early votes were cast Monday through Thursday, according to the county. Total turnout so far is about 9% of registered voters in the county, Harrell said.

The Quorum Hearing Room on the third floor of the County Administration Building is one of 13 early voting sites. The voting device had to be dismantled and secured before the start of the Quorum Court meeting.

Harrell said the location, where a total of 2,114 early votes were cast, is popular with voters.

Early voting continues until November 7. Election day is November 8. NewLife Christian Church at 103 Riordan Road in Bella Vista — the only early voting location in that city — will not be open for early voting Monday due to an event, said county election coordinator Kim Dennison.

County Judge Barry Moehring briefed justices of the peace on a preliminary agreement between the county and the towns of Cave Springs, Decatur, Gentry and Highfill with Pafford Medical Services to provide emergency medical services to much of the western part of the county.

The department made the announcement on Tuesday. The contact is for four years, County Public Safety Administrator Robert McGowen told the Quorum Court.

The agreement was necessary after the current provider, Northwest Health, decided to exercise an early termination of the contracts, citing financial reasons, according to a statement from the county.

The annual amount of the grant to Pafford Medical Services will be $1.51 million for four years, with the amount split proportionately between the county and the cities, according to the release.

Hope-based Pafford Medical Services will take over in January from Northwest Health, which is obligated to provide services until then.

The financial terms of the agreement provide for coverage of out-of-pocket costs for emergency ambulance service. Medicare, Medicaid and third-party insurers would continue to be billed for the service, according to the statement.

Reimbursable coverage is an added benefit for West Benton County residents, potentially saving hundreds of dollars or more for those who use the service. The contract with Northwest Health does not include the benefit, according to the release.

“We’re very excited about this,” Moehring said.

At the end of the meeting, County Attorney George Spence told the Quorum Court that he would step down. He will stay until March. He was a county attorney for 15 years.

“You have been an incredible partner for this Court of Quorum,” Moehring told Spence. “We will miss you incredibly.”

In new cases, the justices of the peace approved:

• Wellness Pet LLC to Decatur for participating in the state tax refund program.

• An application to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for state grant funds in an amount not to exceed $5,000 to assist the Humane Society for Animals Inc.

• Establishment of the mileage rate for 2022 to be collected in 2023: general fund, 5 mills; Road Fund, 1.9 thousandths; and Ambulance Service Improvement District 0.2 mil. The county volunteer is Road Fund 2.0 mills, Historic Preservation Commission at 0.2 mills, and Emergency Medical Services at 2.0 mills.

• Reclassification of $1 million in EMS expenses from the County Emergency Medical Services Levy Fund to the US Bailout Fund for Qualified EMS Costs due to anticipated future increases.

• Reclassifications of $10 million in eligible payroll costs to be paid from the U.S. bailout and $9.3 million for government services to be paid from the bailout income replacement fund for expenses since January 1st.

The county finance committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. on November 3 to continue discussions on the 2023 budget.

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