I was one of the few attendees (we always need more) last month, on April 9th, at the Fulton County Quorum Court, (FCQC), meeting.
As usual, I was shocked, dismayed and disappointed with the meeting; although, I'm less shocked, now-a-days, because this happens every month.
1). The FCQC is made of nine Justices of the Peace (JP), the County Judge, the County Clerk, and the County's legal representative. This is the meeting where Fulton County government decisions are made, and millions of tax dollars are spent throughout the year. One would think the JP's would show up dressed professionally, but that is not often not the case. How about shaving, wearing a shirt with a collar and losing the ball caps guys? I realize this is Fulton County... but you do get paid for this position.
2). As reported last week in The News, the FCQC was zooming through the short agenda, when the mention of the low General Fund perked up some of the JP's ears, (only a couple JP's). The County Treasurer stated that the expenditures where staying the same but the income was down, and it was not going to get any better. The JP's looked at each other like "who just ran over my dog," and flipped papers like they were looking for something. The room was silent for 10 minutes. Then, after a little discussion, JP's decided to keep watching the low-money situation, so they could adjourn instead of consider budget cuts.
3). The public meeting of the FCQC is in the County Courtroom around a long table. This is the only public meeting I have ever seen, worldwide, that half of the court have their backs to the "public." This, and the fact that we cannot video tape the meetings to share with others, makes one think there is something that the FCQC does not want out in the sunshine. Other disappointments: it took almost a year to get the FCQC to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and another long period to get a microphone system so that we could hear what all the whispering was about.
4). When the court does consider items and a motion is made and seconded, the Clerk almost always calls for discussion, then immediately reads the roll call for Yes/No votes. For all the years I have been attending the FCQC meetings, I have hardly ever heard a discussion for a motion and never heard a NO vote.
5).With the primary this month and the fall election, we have choices as to who we want on Quorum Court. It is imperative that the citizens of Fulton County GET OUT AND VOTE on MAY 22. For the first time in memory, there are challengers in seven of nine districts. There are two contested JP races in the primary, and there will be six match ups in the fall election.
You actually have a choice on Fiscal Court. Vote!!
Candidate for JP District 1
It is a pleasure to live in a town with such a big heart. So many people and businesses offered to help by donating care box items to our troops. Whenever I needed help it was there. I never heard I can't help. Can you imagine how much it takes to fill 43 boxes? We did it!
Thank you to all who helped: Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, St. Mary of the Mount Catholic Church, Faith Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie #3431, Horseshoe Bend Health and Medicine, Our Neighborhood Fresh Market, American Legion Post #344, Assembly of God Church, St. Stephens Episcopal Church, Wal-Mart in Ash Flat, Izard County Senior Center in Brockwell. Assembled and packed by Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church Guild.
We have many veterans in Horseshoe Bend, whose children and Grandchildren are serving in Afghanistan. God Bless our troops and we hope these packages will help to enhance their morale.
Horseshoe Bend, Ark.
I was very disappointed in the way the front page article regarding the senior center and White River Area Agency on Aging was handled. I expect that a reporter would seek out the documents that could either verify or dispel statements made in what became a she-said/he-said type article. The documents to which I refer are meeting minutes, audit reports, quarterly review notes, and much more that would have been freely given to you, Mr. Irby, had you asked. The freedom of information act, or a simple request, would have given you access to verifiable information that could have avoided the publication of misinformation.
While the WRAAA director, Ed Haas, was contacted by Mr. Irby, it was obvious that Mr. Irby slanted to Connie Godwin's comments and feelings. Additionally, Mr. Irby used what Mr. Haas said and allowed Godwin to respond, and in ALMOST ALL areas, she either confused, did not fully disclose what she knew to be true, or in some cases was completely dishonest. There was never a threat of the center closing. The "rumor" that you report started squarely in the Salem Center office. And, WRAAA sent out a news release to you and many others over a week ago that clearly stated that the senior centers will not be closing.
When a difficult change like this happens, the obstacles that naturally accompany it seem insurmountable. WRAAA is temporarily taking over a program that, frankly, scored 90 out of a 400 possible points in a bid. The goal is to have a provider that is visionary and strategic in thinking so that a growing number and a changing culture in the aging population can be served. Under new leadership, you will find that no services are cut, no centers are closed, but a renewed commitment and improved services are available. I would think the local newspaper would support such a change with positive and thorough reporting.
Your article states that Fulton County Council on Aging lost the "right" to operate the senior centers. It has never been a "right". It is a bid/contract process. The "right" lasts for the amount of time the contract. Any 501c3 group is eligible to bid. Elements of the bid were very clearly stated as mandatory for the bid to be complete. Many elements on the mandatory list were missing from the Fulton County Council bid. When submitting an official State Request for Proposal, whether there is competition or not, it is not acceptable to leave requested information out. In most state bidding processes, omission of requested information is cause for automatic rejection of a proposal. WRAAA did not reject the proposal, but instead allowed it to go through the scoring process where two judges, working independently, gave the bid proposal the average score of 90 out of 400.
The state of Arkansas has trusted Area Agencies on Aging (there are 8 in AR) to be the responsible fiscal agent for senior centers for many years. The federal and state dollars come to WRAAA to be distributed to the senior centers in a pre-prescribed manner. These accounts are audited annually and specifically to see that mandatory "ear-marks" or regulations are met. WRAAA has always been in compliance with those audits. However, the operation of Fulton County Council on Aging can not boast the same score card. When Godwin states that she had no knowledge of what was not being done correctly, that is an untrue statement. The audits and reviews for Fulton County Council on Aging stated such deficiencies as:
* opening a undisclosed bank account.
* fraudulent billing that had to be repaid to WRAAA.
* not having quarterly board meetings as is mandated by policy.
* not alerting the media to each meeting.
I am curious how a person who has led a program for some 30 years can be in shock that a bid is not accepted when it so obviously omitted so many important elements, and when so many reviews had clearly stated problems and deficiencies. Additionally, Senior Center clients and staff consistently called WRAAA for direction and help with problems that occurred as a result of the lack of management over the last three years.
I am very frustrated that this article was not presented in a more unbiased manner.
If Godwin was going to be given Mr. Haas' comments to rebut, perhaps it would have been fair for Mr. Irby to contact Mr. Haas again to allow him to rebut Godwin's statements and provide additional verifiable information. Please take the time to investigate this appropriately. Investigate the documents that can give you a true story.
Shanna Maguffee, Salem, Ark
Chief Operations Officer
White River AreaAgency on Aging