Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fiscal Court hears plea over JEM Development deal

J-E Editor

Sebree area resident Lissa Liggett might have lost a battle, but she isn’t ready to admit defeat in her war against the Webster County Industrial Development Authority and JEM Development.

Last month Webster County Circuit Court Judge Rene Williams ruled in favor of the IDA in a suit filed by Liggett’s attorney, J.T. Skinner of Sebree. That suit questioned whether a meeting in which the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) voted to sell 17 acres of land in the Webster County industrial park and a award $700,000 loan to JEM was held in accordance to law. Ultimately the court decided that meeting was indeed held appropriately.
“During our case we were provided with a prior ordinance of the county that says the IDA must present any industrial development to the Fiscal Court, who must determine if such industry would be to the detriment of the county,” Skinner said at Monday’s Fiscal Court meeting. “I would request that the court deny the IDA’s request.”

County Attorney Clint Prow told magistrates that he would not recommend them taking any action on the request until he had time to review the ordinance. He explained that in most cases, entities such as the IDA operate separate from the county government.
“The IDA, like the county water board, are entirely separate,” Prow said. “The court has no control over what the water board does, so I’m not sure if the court even has the authority to vote on this issue.”

The ordinance in question is one that was approved by the fiscal court in 1993, effectively creating the Webster County IDA.

“Perhaps another attorney should make a recommendation to the court,” said Skinner, pointing out that Prow had acted as the IDA’s attorney in the previous suit.
“The county attorney’s number one priority is to the court,” said Prow.

Magistrates agreed with Prow, but requested that he take a look at the ordinance. The county will discuss whether or not they can and should vote on the original IDA decision on Monday, July 13 at 9:00 a.m.

In other business, representatives of Health First CHC were on hand to discuss a new medical assistance program that will be coming to the county. For several years the county has helped fund a clinic in Hopkins County. For an investment of $25,000 per year, Webster County residents who could not afford medical attention could be seen at that clinic. In 2014, only five local residents visited the clinic.

When magistrates voted in the new fiscal budget, which begins on July 1, they moved the funding for the clinic to a new program Health First is working on, although they reduced the amount to $15,000.

For that investment, plus free use of a building located just behind the courthouse, Health First will provide assistance to residents who cannot afford proper healthcare.

“For those folks who lack resources, we could help connect them to those resources,” said Tom Glover, a representative of Health First. “This could mean anything from manufacturer coupons to putting them in touch with the proper health care provider. It wouldn’t have to be a provider with Health First, although those would be available.”

The program will operate around two days a week in the new Dixon office, but would be available the rest of the time through Health First’s  existing Providence office.
“If $15 is what is preventing someone seeing a doctor, that could end up costing society $15,000 in medical bills, if thy end up in the hospital,” said Glover.

Health First is also looking at tying the program in with arraignments they have made with local dentist, Dr. Paige Warren. That deal could allow anyone who qualifies for the program to receive discounted or free dental service.

The funding for the program will be available beginning July 1, but it may be as long as August 1 before the Dixon office can open.

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