BY MELANIE BUCK –
With most of the flood damage repaired, Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison sat down with The Pulse and laid out his plans for 2016. “Getting the damage repaired from the floods is top priority,” said Ellison who also has plenty more projects on his agenda. (See Few Damages Remain Following Diligence of County Crews for details on flood repairs and funding)
Due to late fall and early winter floods, some of the county’s fall projects were unable to be completed. County Roads 46, 45, and the mid-section of 41, were all halted but Ellison plans to finish them this spring. “Those roads will be resurfaced this spring and we will also finish the bridge on Polk 6,” Ellison explained. He also said they want to concentrate on sealing and resurfacing some of the better roads to keep them in good shape.
Part of Ellison’s 10-year plan includes trying to build between two and four concrete bridges each year — something he plans to do this year as well.
Courthouse repair is also on Ellison’s to-do list and this year he hopes to get new interior plaster through a grant with the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program (AHPP). Because the Polk County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is eligible to receive grants for the upkeep of the facilities, not all of the upkeep, but for certain projects. Last year, AHPP provided grant funding for waterproofing on the Courthouse. As a future project, Ellison hopes to get new caulking and glazing around the windows and new paint on the window frames.
The elevator inside the Courthouse is also in need of repair. The elevator is little used but is required so that visitors to the facility that are unable to use the stairs can reach the upper floor. The elevator still functions properly but has to be updated to become compliant. The project could cost $20,000, which will have to be paid for by the county.
On a statewide level, Judge Ellison sits on the Arkansas Association of Counties (AAC) and plans to continue to push for legislation on highway funding bills that will affect rural counties and he plans “to help out as much as I can,” Ellison said.
There are also talks about building regional mental health facilities across the state to help alleviate jails. The system has shown success in other states and Governor Hutchinson backs the idea as well. If the program goes through, individuals who need mental health assistance, rather than jail time, will get the help they need while leaving jails less crowded. Each facility would house sixteen beds. “The AAC and Sheriff’s Association had pressure to find a solution and look for alternatives and I plan on being involved in that,” said Ellison.
One other item on Ellison’s agenda is to find a solution for Polk County’s jail problem in the first half of 2016. Although Ellison didn’t give details, he said there are plans being tossed around, but has nothing to announce yet.