Board meeting. The Developmental Disabilities Services board met in Booneville for just the second time last week. Above Suzanne McCommon (left) and board secretary Sally Hardin look over a document. At right is DDS director Dr. Charlie Green.
Though it is a far cry from what some Developmental Disabilities Services board members anticipated, Booneville Human Development Center is slated for three projects totalling about $495,000.
A $20 million capital expenditure program from the center was crafted after the DDS board met in Booneville for the first time three years ago and, out of that, a $6 million request was made in the last legislative session.
However, the budget process that includes the Department of Human Services, the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislature was not kind to BHDC, trimming the request to $3.9 million.
But even that doesn’t mean it will ever be spent here, Dr. Charlie Green, DDS director said during last week’s meeting of the DDS board in a jam packed conference room at the Nyberg Building.
“That’s just permission to spend it,” said Green. “We never count on it until we get it.”
Board member Darrell Pickney said he was of the belief that because the money for the BHDC was such a high priority for DDS, and even Governor Mike Beebe, it was all but a done deal.
Sally Hardin of Booneville, who is the board secretary, said she assumed that as well.
Green said when the budget request was submitted that with a focus on dual diagnosis patients, those with developmental and mental disabilities, the BHDC request stood a good chance but, “obviously it didn’t.”
Superintendent Jeff Gonyea said about 98 percent of those served at BHDC have a dual diagnosis.
Pickney wondered if the hangup might not be the wording on the budget request, labeling the need for renovation of the Curtis Circle cottages as a program, might have been a drawback.
Green said he did not think so because most DF&A officials has been handling the budget process so long they were well aware of what the request entailed.
Pickney also said he spoke with a legislator who told Pickney that it was hard to believe the BHDC project was a high priority with no legislator pushing it.
Green responded that as an executive agency he answers to, and therefore should not, circumvent the governor’s wishes, but board chairman David Rosegrant noted that board members have no such limitations on speaking with legislators.
Hardin said she did think board members knew they needed to take on such a responsibility.
“I think we’re feeling neglected,” Hardin said.
She later added, “I can’t tell you how important BHDC is to our town. We would be in dire straights without it,” said Hardin.
Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins was in attendance Wednesday.
Among the projects currently in the works at BHDC are a $120,000 roofing project for the Nyberg Building, a $75,000 project to address showers at the Davidson Building and a $300,000 recreation building project. The roofing project is waiting on a construction contract, the shower project is in the design phase and the recreation building is in the final stages of design, according to information Green provided to the board.
The $495,000 to be spent here amounts to about 24 percent of the total ARRA, or so-call stimulus money, to be spent on HDCs in the state this year.
From 2009-2012 BHDC spent over $2.3 million in ARRA, Green noted, and another $1.7 million in money classified as 1DE projects, paid for through realization of depreciation expenses.
Pickney and Hardin would question some of those decisions because of $319,000 spent on buildings, they said, that have sat vacant for two years.
Gonyea said those building are awaiting fiber optic cabeling and should be open within 30 days, at which time a cascading move will occur.
In other matters in the lengthy meeting, Green discussed the creation of a task force that will recommend how to best proceed in an environment that includes not only aging facility but a population that is aging and experiencing more behavior issues as well.
The task force has met just once.