The Sevier County Quorum Court, at a special meeting held on Sept. 11, passed an ordinance authorizing the issuance of sales and use tax bonds for the purpose of financing the costs of building a new hospital in Sevier County and pledging to use the voter-approved 1 percent sales and use tax to pay the principal and interest on the bonds. The vote was unanimous with court Justice Angie Walker absent, The county will issue bonds in the amount of $24,250,000.
According to Ryan Bowman, a bond attorney from the law firm of Friday, Eldredge and Clark of Little Rock, the bonds were offered to investors on Thursday, Sept. 10, and that demand peaked within two hours of opening. Interest on the bonds will be 3.07 percent and the first payment will come due on Aug. 1, 2022.
Earlier in the meeting, Dr. Steve Cole, who is chairman of the Sevier County Medical Board of Governors, the committee overseeing the construction of the hospital, which will be located on Hwy. 71 near De Queen Lake Road, told the court that finalizing the bond sale was the biggest step toward building. He said that the plan is to break ground Nov. 1, though construction could begin sooner.
Cole also spoke about the new hospital foundation, which will function separate from the hospital and will raise funds toward supplementing the facility.
“The beauty of the foundation is it can have as many members as they want,” Cole told the court. “Anyone in Sevier County can be a part of it.”
Cole told the court that the foundation was “off and running” and seeking a pair of grants that would provide a “substantial” amount of money if they’re approved for them.
Cole said the board of governors is also working to refine it’s mission statement and that they were in the process of finding a hospital administrator, which they hoped to hire by the first of next year.
“Hiring a great administrator is vitally important,” he told the court. “We need someone with energy — someone that cares about being here. Someone with honesty and integrity.”
In other meeting action, the court heard a pitch from David and Joyce Boone of David Boone Ministries, the administrators for Sevier County Sr. Citizens Center and their meal programs. The Boones told the court that with the complications caused by the covid-19 pandemic, their operation, which is delivering meals to seniors, is losing $3,000 a month. The court voted to provide $6,000, which had already been budgeted for the senior programs, to the Boones.
The last item the court took up was a proposed resolution supporting Issue 1, an amendment to the Arkansas constitution to continue a levy of a one-half percent sales and use tax for state highways and bridges, county roads, bridges, and other surface transportation. Issue 1 will also help fund city streets, bridges and other surface transportation after the retirement of the bonds authorized in Arkansas Constitution, Amendment 91, as special revenue to be distributed under the Arkansas Highway Revenue Distribution Law.
According to the resolution, without continuation of the sales and use tax, the state will be unable to meet the “severe and pressings needs” to maintain and improve state highways, county roads and city streets. The resolution also predicts Sevier County will lose $400,000 annually for local county roads in addition to funds being lost by cities and towns in the county. It claims the tax will create jobs and aid in economic development.