Sevier County may consider sales tax hike to build hospital
TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — Voters in Sevier County could be asked to approve a higher sales tax to subsidize the construction of a hospital after the county's lone facility shut down last month, officials said.
Since the De Queen Medical Center Inc. closed, residents have had to travel at least 30 miles (50 kilometers) for medical care at hospitals in Howard and Little River counties or McCurtain County in Oklahoma.
Dr. Steve Cole, the county's Rural Development Authority chairman, said Thursday that building a hospital would ensure the community has access to health care, the Texarkana Gazette reported.
"We want a hospital to be run by people who care," said Cole. "We want to make sure people receive proper health care."
De Queen Mayor Jeff Brown said that he backs the proposed sale tax increase.
It remains uncertain how much the sales tax would need to be hiked or when it would be put on the ballot, according to the county's officials.
An online sales tax handbook guide shows that the current sales tax rate in De Queen, Arkansas, is 9.625%, with Sevier County receiving slightly more than 2%.
The De Queen Medical Center was recently put into receivership to prevent owners Jorge Perez and Ricardo Perez from spending or transferring the facility's assets.
Sevier County Circuit Judge Tom Cooper chose director of nursing Rachel Matheson as the medical center's receiver.
"DMCI is insolvent and unable to pay its debts as they become due. Employees of DMCI have either been laid off or have quit their employment because they have not been paid. Further, health care professionals essential to the operation of DMCI and to continued licensure of the hospital have discontinued providing medical services," according to an order that Cooper signed last month.
Cole said he admires the hospital's 34 employees who worked without being compensated prior to the facility closing.
"They were the 34 heroes. Few people would do what they did and not get paid," said Cole.
Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com