JPs review, get details on Washington County developments, progress

Posted: February 27, 2018 at 1 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Washington County officials plan to create an inventory for small tools, focus more on grants revenue and continue to trim budgets, said Carl Gales, chief of staff for the county judge.

"We are just being smarter purchasing," Gales said.

What’s the Public Works Committee?

Seven justices of the peace are appointed to the Public Works Committee, which has duties to review infrastructure maintenance and expansion. That includes roadwork and updates on county bridges.

Source: Washington County website

Gales told justices of the peace about a slew of issues -- ranging from repairs to bridges and roadwork to planned juvenile detention center renovations -- during the Public Works Committee on Monday. The county judge oversees 14 departments, including the Road Department.

Committee Chairman Harvey Bowman, a Republican representing northern Washington County, said he called the meeting to make sure justices of the peace have detailed information on what is going on "behind the scenes" within the county.

Gales and County Judge Joseph Wood have provided overviews of county business previously. However, Bowman said the items discussed Monday are in more detail. For example, the county took in about $3.5 million in grants last year, and staff have applied for another $1 million already this year, Bowman said.

The county also is working with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to find a spot for the crisis stabilization units, which the state will fund at $1.5 million. Those units, which are meant to divert people with mental health issues away from the jail, will help reduce the number of inmates at the jail, Gales said. The county has three sites selected on its property currently leased to UAMS, he said.

Gales gave updates on road construction, too. For example, the Road Department graded about 1,500 miles of county road and paved about 60 miles with chip and seal last year. The department plans to pave 60 miles with chip and seal this year.

Meanwhile, county officials also will take inventory of tools under $500, Gales said.

Between the inventory and a review of county-issued cards some employees use to make purchases, officials expect to trim the budget, Gales said. The county spends about $500,000 through purchasing cards per year, Gales said. Some of those purchases are "trivial," like buying a bag of concrete instead of waiting on the purchasing department, Gales said.

"Those little items is what kills you when you're in business," Gales said.

The move to review purchase cards comes after former technology department Director John Adams was arrested in connection with theft of county property earlier this month. Adams had been placed on administrative leave in January.

Other projects Gales said are underway include fixing roads damaged from rain over the weekend, reviewing contracts set to expire to get better deals and continuing to help veterans get their benefits.

NW News on 02/27/2018