A presentation was given by Mark Leitner, Administrator for UT Health Hospital in Henderson to the Rusk County Commissioners during their regular meeting Monday.

“This is not the typical way of doing this (speaking of the presentation),” said Leitner.

He told the Commissioners that the federal and state assisted the hospital during the COVID surge until February 2021. But when the Delta spike hit it placed a hardship on the hospital. According to Leitner they sought assistance from the state again but were told that they could not help at this time but that the county and city could possibly help with funds given to them from the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

“You could tap into the dollars that’s been awarded to the County to help during this difficult time,” Leitner said. “This is specific to COVID.”

He further told the Commissioners that Athens and Tyler had participated in there request for the hospitals in their cities.

According to Leitner they have had a shortage in nurses and staff and had to pay higher salaries for those positions. To make things even more difficult all staff must be vaccinated by December 4 because of the vaccine mandate and they must receive the second shot by January 4. He told the Commissioners that he is not sure how this is going to affect the hospital and its needed staff.

Commissioner Bennie Whitworth told Leitner that he really appreciated the work that the hospital has done for the citizens of the County.

He then said, “In my personal opinion we don’t have the funds available because of all the needs and costs associated with the projects we’re working on with the ARP money.”

When asked if UT Health Hospital was a for profit business Leitner said yes. He was also asked if any of the administrators had received an increase in pay to which Leitner said no. He was asked if the hospital was in the black or in the red currently.

“The hospital is in the black but not up to budget,” Leitner said.

Since this was a presentation only and not an action item it will be considered and a decision made in a future meeting.

The Commissioners received two bids for a contractor for Rusk County On-Site Sewage Inspector. There were two bids, one from Jeff Hammond and one from Bill Turner. The bid by Hammond was approved.

The new elections administrator, Shannon Brown told the Commissioners, “The election turned out very well.”

After sharing some information about the election the canvasing of the November 2 election was approved.

A request by Rusk County Treasurer Andy Vinson to increase the county’s contribution to the Cafeteria 125 plan from $100 to $120 to simplify the accounting process was approved.

Two mutual aid agreements was presented by Sheriff John Wayne Valdez. One was with the City of Mount Enterprise and the other with the Auto Theft Task Force. Both were approved.

Sheriff Valdez then asked the Commissioners to approve an insurance incentive for all new hires because the department was having a hard time hiring patrol officers and jailers.

Judge Joel Hale said, “I have no problem for the Sheriff’s Office only but not for all employees.”

The Commissioners approved the request but only for newly hired patrol officers and jailers.

Michael Searcy and Sheriff Valdez gave an update on the future radio system for Rusk County.

Other agenda items approved were:

The 104th Judicial District Adult Sexual Assault Response Team and setting the date of the first meeting as required by S.B. 476

Allow Precinct 4 Commissioner Bennie Whitworth to go onto private property to fix some ruts going into the clay pit that were made by his trucks

A non-binding Memorandum of Understanding for FY 2022 with ETCADA and Rusk County

Five requests for pipeline/utility requests

An update on current weather conditions was given by Patrick Dooley and a recommendation from him not to implement another burn ban. Currently there is not a burn ban in place.


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