Ashley County Quorum Court adopted three ordinances at its meeting last week, including one that provides the county guidance on how to address employee COVID-19 testing.

The ordinance specifies that employees who request time off under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act have to notify their department heads or elected officials in writing “as soon as the need becomes known.”

The ordinance also gives the county the right to pay for COVID-19 testing of employees who have symptoms or who have been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus when they request time off.

“To be eligible for county payment of COVID-19 testing, the employee must notify their department head or elected official prior to seeking a test and obtain consent,” the ordinance reads. “The employee must also use the healthcare provider specified by the department head or elected official.”

The ordinance goes on to say that employees can consult with a health care provider of their choice, but that the county won’t pay for that test.

As adopted, the ordinance also states that employees who know they have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person are supposed to quarantine in alignment with the state health department’s guidance, but also that, “County employees are deemed to be ‘critical infrastructure workers’ as used in the (Arkansas Department of Health) Quarantine Order. Therefore, based on specific office needs at the time of the quarantine period, an employee who is not symptomatic and who has not received a positive test result, may still be required to report to work and to follow additional safety measures during the recommended quarantine period.”

As adopted, the ordinance also allows the county to discipline or fire employees who violate a quarantine order.

In other news, the body approved a one-year extension to the Crossett Health Foundation’s 10-year lease on the county-owned hospital, Ashley County Medical Center.

The lease is now valid through Sept. 15, 2030. It was last reviewed in 2019

The 10-year lease on the facility was first approved in 1998 and has been rolled forward by one year every year since then, effectively giving the foundation a perpetual 10-year lease.

The annual review and extension was written into the initial lease agreement, and the quorum court is required to roll it forward as long as the foundation is not in default.

The quorum court voted to approve a number of budget line item changes as presented by the county treasurer’s office.

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