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Heritage Park to benefit from jail construction

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As the initial steps began for construction of the new county jail, it was determined that as much as eight feet of dirt would have to be removed from the site and new dirt hauled in to support the jail foundation,
    This posed a question. What to do with the tons and tons of dirt?
    Rick Wilson, president of Heritage Park, suggested the park could use a lot of the old dirt to fill in a pool at the backside of the park.
    With cooperation from Sedalco Construction Services, contractor for the jail project, and project supervisor Gary Johnson, two needs are being met.
    As construction workers remove soil from the new jail site, it is loaded on dump trucks and hauled only about two blocks away to Heritage Park.
    Wilson believes Heritage Park has a solution for what to do with the tons of dirt being hauled out.
    “We asked them if they could just bring it over and dump it at the park,” Wilson said. “One of the old pools that we had behind the park had, for years not held water and we have been trying to dry it up.”
    Relocating the dirt from the jail site to the park has the potential of helping expand the park.
    “It will help us make it a more attractive park on the back end,” Wilson said. “They have been very cooperative in bringing all the dirt down there and assisting us with some bulldozer work as well. We are going to have an attractive place when we get through with it, and it's going to be very nice.”
    Wilson emphasized the pool being filled is not the one adjacent to the chapel in Heritage Park.
    The dry pool has been grown over with weeds for many years, to the point nobody could really see it.
    That pool, though, does have some history of its own.
    “It was one of the original clay pits that was out there at the park,” he said. “That's where they used to get clay to make bricks, but it is just not cooperating anymore.”
    Wilson said that when the pool is filled in and the new soil leveled and smoothed out, grass will be planted and more than an acre of park area will be added.
    The addition will mean more space for events like the annual John
Chester Dutch Oven cooking event and, Wilson said, will be available for other outdoor events in the future.

SSISD lowers tax rate slightly; gives staff pay raise

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While Sulphur Springs Independent School District’s tax rate will be one cent less per $100 property value  during the 2014-15 fiscal school year, appraisal rates throughout the district are up, which should not only balance out revenues but generate a little bit of surplus.

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HCMH increasing tax rate by a few cents

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Hopkins County Memorial Hospital District Board of Directors Monday evening gave approval to the hospital's budget for the upcoming financial year and also initially approved setting the tax rate at 25 cents per $100 property valuation, up from the current rate of 21.37 cents.
    The budget, as approved, calls for a $2,486,985 deficit for fiscal year 2014-1015.
    In explaining the almost $2.5 million deficit budget, hospital Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew said the hospital is seeing downward pressure on reimbursements from insurance companies and payors who are moving toward a “blended” Medicare/Medicaid rate.
    He said that while payments for services is in a decline, expenses continue to grow and cited the costs of drugs, labor, medical equipment, clinical supplies and healthcare for hospital employees.
    “Medicaid has completely revamped the way it pays supplements to providers. This has resulted in decreased reimbursement,” McAndrew said. “Texas did not expand Medicaid, which would have improved both access and reimbursement significantly.”
    The hospital CEO also said that more than 70 percent of the hospital's business can be attributed to Medicare and Medicaid patients and that reimbursements from both simply do not cover costs associated with the care given.
    Still another factor McAndrew pointed to was the continuing increases in the costs of medical technology and equipment.
    The Affordable Care Act, which has been referred to as Obamacare, has high-deductible plans which lead to increased bad debt for the hospital.
    The hospital board approved public hearings on the proposed tax rate increase for Sept. 8 and Sept. 15, with the final vote of the board slated for Sept. 22.

Hopkins County Genealogical Society and Historical Society plan joint meeting Aug. 28

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    During the annual combined meeting of the Hopkins County Genealogical Society and the Hopkins County Historical Society, retired Travis Elementary kindergarten teacher Lavyn Sisco will present her annual first-person narrative.

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Surprise jail inspection prompted by medical complaint

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Just as construction was getting started on a new Hopkins County jail to resolve a number of issues with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the commission made a surprise visit to current facility Thursday, according to County Judge Robert Newsom.
    The visit was prompted by a complaint the jail standards commission had received about the jail.
    “The complaint was based on some of the medical challenges that we are having down there at the jail,” the judge said. “We jumped right on it. We visited with medical personnel [Friday] and they are going to be sure our prisoners are taken care of.”
    Medical care and services at the jail are provided through a contract with Hopkins County Memorial Hospital, either in the hospital emergency room or at the jail, which Judge Newsom said was much less expensive.
    “We count on them to actually make sure that the inmates are taken care of,” he said. “It's just part of our responsibility.”
     The jail commission's annual visit is scheduled for next month and Newsom said he was told if the situation were remedied, the issue would be resolved.
    The jail standards commission has been a frequent visitor at the county jail for a number of years and has worked with the county in a variety of ways to try and resolve problems, specifically overcrowding, as well as issues related to a number of issues involving jail equipment and structural concerns.
    Although the current jail has the capacity to house as many as 100 prisoners, an increasing number of female offenders has exceeded the capacity to house women.
    At a rate of about $50 per day, the county is housing prisoners in neighboring counties to stay within population parameters.
    Construction on the $16 million jail that will house as many as 200 inmates started last week and completion and the transfer of prisoners to the new facility is expected in October of next year.

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