The Pulaski County Health Department will have to wait a bit longer before it can spend recently-released grant funding. Last month, the county council voted to advertise an additional appropriation request to spend $39,500 of the $90,000 it received from the state, with the request up for final approval this week.
But that request was never advertised. Council President Ken Boswell said that was due to some questions about a request to use some of that money for overtime. “I guess with the way it got presented in a couple places, there was questions as to whether it was overtime or whether it was a bonus,” Boswell explained.
Health Department Office Manager Terri Hansen stressed that the $7,500 being requested for overtime would only be used if needed, mainly to pay for staff to offer Narcan training. She said she provided a clear breakdown of how she plans to use the grant money to the auditor before last month’s meeting, but council members said they never saw it until Monday.
Meanwhile, Council Member Rudy DeSabatine still wasn’t ready to even advertise the request. Specifically, he felt that Hansen should hold off on some proposed technology upgrades. “I talked to Willie DeGroot the other day, just this last week, and he said these telephones and the computers and stuff is a bad idea,” DeSabatine said. “He said the whole idea behind this thing is when the courthouse is getting ready to be revamped, at that time, there’s a plan to do a complete circuit thing for all of it, and he said this would be a complete waste of money.”
Hansen said she could understand holding off on the phone upgrades, but she needed to replace the laptops used for food inspections, since the current ones are out of date and don’t meet state requirements.
County Health Officer Dr. Rex Allman questioned why DeSabatine wanted to delay the Health Department’s ability to use the grant funding. “With the current pandemic, do you really want to keep us with laptops that are not functioning very well?” Allman asked. “This is not a time, I think, to delay things. It’s happening.”
Council Member Kathi Thompson pointed out that advertising the request doesn’t mean council members can’t discuss any concerns before giving their final approval. “It should’ve been advertised between last meeting and this meeting because that was our vote, and then at this meeting, we could look at it again,” Thompson said. “We’ve pushed them back a month. If we advertise it now, we still have another month before she can actually spend this money. You’ve given her some questions you want answers to; she can come back with answers next month because we’ve pushed them back another month.”
In the end, council members voted six-to-one to advertise the additional appropriation request, with DeSabatine opposing. However, they unanimously agreed to add another $6,000 to the request, to let the Health Department replace a refrigerator and freezer that’s used to store immunizations.