Asbestos abatement at old HMH close to done

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    By Louie Graves
    News-Leader staff

    The final phase of asbestos abatement was to begin Monday, County Judge Kevin Smith told members of the Howard County Quorum Court Monday.

    The abatement is the latest step in settling the future of the old Howard Memorial Hospital facility, closed and silent since July of 2009.

    The judge told JPs that he had been assured that the Southwest Arkansas Development Council was trying to get grants to take down part of the structure. The newest wing which was dedicated in 1978 will apparently be saved.

    “We’re getting closer,” he said of the demolition of part of the old facility.

    Judge Smith told the JPs that the remaining space could be used for storage of county records, now relegated to a damp area in the courthouse; for a standby courthouse to be used in case the existing one was unable to function after a disaster; and as a possible site for the Howard County District Court.

    He noted that the district court faced space and parking problems in its present location in the City-County Building.

    He said that the asbestos abatement might be completed in 10 days.

    The court discussed the possible purchase of new voting machines. County Clerk Keri Teague said that the existing voting machines worked, but that parts were no longer made for the model. The secretary of state has said that, statewide, machines might be eligible for a 50/50 grant, but JPs were told it would still cost the county about $137,000. Teague said she would like to get the new machines before the next election.

    She said that the state would ‘return’ equipment originally sent to counties for use in making photo IDs.

    The JPs approved renomination of Bobby Farley of Dierks and Barbara Finley of Tollette to the Equalization Board. The court gets two nominees, and the county judge gets to name one. Judge Smith said that his nominee would be former Sheriff Butch Morris to replace Scott Kitchens whose term expired.

    All JPs were present for Monday’s regular meeting for May, including: Bobby Don Turner, Kerry Strasner, Jerry Harwell, Kirk Bell, Dick Wakefield, Gary Welch, Martha Hobbs, Brent Pinkerton and Janice Huffman. Also, Judge Smith, Sheriff Bryan McJunkins, Circuit Clerk Angie Lewis, Treasurer Sherry Mixon, and County Clerk Teague.