ES council OKs transit’s new substance abuse policy

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Eureka Springs Transit Department is rolling into the new year with an updated substance abuse policy.

On Monday night, the Eureka Springs City Council heard from transit director Ken Smith about the new policy. After an audit in November, Smith said, he learned the department is complying with federal regulations but should adopt a new substance abuse policy including opioids. The policy is an attempt to curb the opioid epidemic, Smith said.

“That includes testing for … all those prescription drugs that need a prescription. If an employee has tested positive for the opioid and does not have a valid prescription, it’s a positive test,” Smith said. “Since transit is a no-tolerance agency, their employment will end.”

If the employee has a valid prescription for the opioid, Smith said, the test will return negative but with safety concerns.

“We’ll have to sit down with the driver and doctor and determine if he can continue driving a trolley under his current condition,” Smith said.

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider asked if medical marijuana will be included as one of the prohibited substances, saying it will become legal in 2018.

“At this time for the federal government, marijuana is still a Schedule I restricted narcotic,” Smith said.

“It hasn’t changed yet, so if a driver needs medical marijuana for something, his medical condition will probably negate him driving for us.”

He added, “The department of transportation has stated no matter what the state laws are concerning marijuana, it’s still illegal for a public transportation driver to test positive for it.”

There is discussion, Smith said, about how to determine when an employee is under the influence of marijuana.

“Right now, we have up to 32 hours to test somebody who we suspect is under the influence of something,” Smith said. “There’s discussion about when exactly is someone under the influence of marijuana. They may test positive for marijuana, but they’re not under the influence of it.”

Alderman Terry McClung moved to adopt the new policy, and the council agreed to do so. The council moved on to discuss the procedure for appointing a new council member. Alderwoman Peg Adamson announced Nov. 11 she will be resigning from her Ward 2 position on the council Jan. 1. Alderman David Mitchell asked city attorney Tim Weaver to clarify how the council will go about filling Adamson’s position, and Weaver said the council would declare a vacancy and vote on applicants.

“The way the council has done this at a previous time was to declare the seat empty and then at the next meeting took a full vote,” Weaver said. “You would declare a vacancy. You would meet your candidates. The mayor does not get a vote. It only goes to the five members that remain on the council.”

Mitchell suggested that applicants request to be put on the ballot by notifying city clerk Ann Armstrong, and Weaver said that would work out fine.

“There is nothing in state law that says specifically they notify the clerk, but I’d assume someone needs to assemble the list and if the council defers that individual being the clerk, that certainly is a viable way of doing it,” Weaver said.

Alderman Terry McClung said he wants to declare the vacancy at the first meeting in January and vote at the first meeting in February. Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick said she’d like to vote sooner than that.

“I’d hate to see us go without a full council for a month and a half or two months,” Kendrick said.

McClung said he wouldn’t be at the second meeting in January to vote, and alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she didn’t mind waiting until the first meeting in February.

“If we’re going to be missing people at the second meeting, we make it for the first meeting in February,” Schneider said. “It’s not that big of a deal. It’s better to take your time and work things out and talk with the people and let them get used to what’s going on, get them up to date and do it right rather than rush through.”

In other business, the council approved an ordinance clarifying quorum of the whole for all commissions on a first reading and a second reading by title only.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 8, at The Auditorium.

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