Fiscal Court debates unanticipated revenue, chip and seal

In News by Lee Bratcher

The Ohio County Fiscal Court met on May 22 and during the meeting they approved the bid for the new animal shelter, sparred over chip and seal, debated where to put unanticipated revenue and there were questions asked about the use of the county road department on private property.

— Ohio County Judge Executive David Johnston called the May 22, fiscal court meeting to order and the court began by accepting the minutes from the May 5 and 8 meeting and accepting the bills, claims, payments and transfers.

Magistrate Michael McKenney made a motion that the court approve the installation of a fire hydrant on U.S. Highway 231 North in Pleasant Ridge by the Ohio County Water District for $4,750 from the coal severance/special projects fund. Magistrate Larry Keown seconded the motion. After a short discussion on what fund the money would come from for future fire hydrants, the court approved the installation with a 6-0 vote.

— Next the court was presented with the second reading of the fiscal year 2012-13 budget and David Johnston made a motion to accept the budget with a second from Magistrate Kenny Autry.

(To hear audio from the meeting of the 2012-13 budget discussion, click here.)

During the discussion, Keown asked Johnston if more money had been put into the chip and seal fund for the next fiscal year. Johnston said there hadn’t, but that it was a top priority and they were looking for funds.

Keown then asked the court if anybody would object to a motion of putting half of any excess or unanticipated revenue into the road fund for construction. Autry was also concerned about the amount or lack thereof, of money going to chip and seal out of the road fund. Autry agreed that there needs to be some way to get more money into chip and seal.

The court then voted on the second reading of the budget and the budget passed with a 5-1 vote, with Magistrate Brandon Thomas voting no.

— Keown then made a motion for the fiscal court to approve placing one-half of unanticipated revenue into the road fund. Magistrate Jason Bullock spoke up to say that he believed that the court should start putting money into their emergency fund. He pointed out how during the ice storm, the emergency fund was a big help. Keown had no issues with that idea and amended his motion to place one-half of unanticipated revenue into emergency funds. Autry seconded the motion.

There was much discussion about how much they should actually set aside. Bullock thought half of unanticipated funds was perhaps too large an amount. Keown told the court he is just trying to look ahead and that this may be the best time to do something. Bullock wanted to hold off to the next meeting. Keown then says that he has been trying to do something like this for years because over the years the court brings in more money, yet the road fund gets the same amount every year.

The motion failed with a 3-3 tie with Bullock, McKenney and Thomas voting no.

Keown then made a motion to put any FEMA monies received into the road fund, Bullock seconded and the motion passed 6-0.

— Thomas made a motion to put a figure or dollar amount for the labor and equipment used by the County in the formula to figure the chip and seal rate. It was seconded by McKenney.

(To hear audio from the meeting of the labor and equipment discussion, click here.)

Each magistrate has a set amount of money they can use to chip and seal roads. The money is divided equally amongst the magistrates according to the amount of road mileage in each district. As of now, only oil and rock are being charged to the chip and seal fund. Thomas wants to start charging for labor and equipment use to the chip and seal fund.

During the discussion, Autry told the court that the people of the fourth and fifth district are going to be hurt by this motion because those districts have the majority of the roads. Autry said he can’t afford to blacktop all his district’s roads because there are too many and there aren’t enough funds. Autry went on to say that if labor and equipment use has to be paid for out of the chip and seal fund he can’t take care of his district’s chip and seal needs.

Thomas argued that if a magistrate chooses to never blacktop the roads in their district, they will always have to chip and seal. Thomas went on to explain that it is a long process to get gravel and chip and seal roads and that those districts with the most gravel and chip and seal are essentially getting more labor and equipment use from the road department, then those districts who don’t choose to chip and seal.

McKenney and Thomas both claim that they chose to blacktop, they ran out of funds before they even had an opportunity to use the extra seasonal help that was hired by the county for the road department for other projects.

Johnston then told the court that there had been enough discussion and called for a vote. The motion died after a 4-2 vote with Thomas and McKenney voting yes.

After the vote Johnston said he wanted this matter taken up by the road prioritization committee and for them to come back with a specific amount or formula of what the cost of labor and equipment would be for further discussion. During this part of the meeting, Johnston even agreed with Thomas at one point by saying, “I do think the fourth and the fifth, that did do the chipping, they do get more money for their buck.”

— The court was presented with a bid for the new Ohio County Animal Shelter by Ohio County Animal Control Officer Josh Wright. Wright told the court that there was only one bid received and it was from Black Construction & Supplies for $105,700 to be paid out of grant money. Wright said that this price did not include the kennels and that the animal shelter will be picking them out themselves. Wright said the kennels would cost around $20,000. Wright said he hopes that the community businesses will make donations toward the purchasing of the kennels. Bullock made a motion to accept the bid with Thomas as a second. The motion passed with a 6-0 vote.

— During the time for committee reports, Autry, who is on the roads prioritization committee, wanted to inform the court that the committee put together a list of roads with no houses on them. At no time did they discuss farm roads or any other roads, just roads without houses. Autry said that there has been no action made on what to do with those 38 miles of roads on the list. He said at some point the committee will decide on what to do and then they will bring it before the court. McKenney, who is also on the roads prioritization committee, backed Autry up saying that at no time was there a discussion of closing any roads.

(To hear audio from the meeting of the roads prioritization committee discussion, click here.)

Autry also informed the court that there would be a festival on Jerusalem Ridge this year.

— Ohio County Parks Director Susan Chinn came before the court and asked if the county would provide work for a private entity, such as inmate work to clean up the grounds. The private entity in question was the former golf course and now currently Kentucky Music Park. Johnston said that they are still looking into it, but there was a precedent across the country of a county helping a private entity to get ready for an event, but not on an ongoing basis.

(To hear audio from the meeting of the inmate clean up work discussion, click here.)

Johnston then said that a storm removal team went to the Kentucky Music Park to pick up storm debris only to find out that it was not storm debris. They were called back after that discovery.

“They were there for a few hours and people started showing up with chainsaws, so they quit and pulled out,” Johnston said. “But there is lots of precedent for using inmates on that sort of thing, getting ready for an event.”

— During the magistrates reports, McKenney informed the court that the city of Hartford needed some help with regards to a sewer auger across U.S. Highway 231 in Hartford where the new Super Fred’s store will be built. The project would cost around $30,000. McKenney made no motion, but asked the court to think about helping the city down the road.

— During the time for the general public to speak, WXMZ’s Jerry Wright had some questions regarding county money being spent on the new Kentucky Music Park and about a home that had fallen down in McHenry that the road department helped clean up.

(To hear audio from the meeting of the Kentucky Music Park and McHenry home clean up discussion, click here.)

Wright claimed to have seen the road department working at the Kentucky Music Park, to which Johnston replied that they were putting in a tile which the county would do for anyone’s driveway. Wright then reminded the judge that on his radio show, the judge said the county would spend no money on the new Kentucky Music Park because it was privately funded. The judge did not recall saying that, but he did say that the county would do everything they would do with anyone coming in with a new business, be it a driveway or road tile.

Wright then said he had received some calls about the road department cleaning up a home, on private property, that had been torn down. The judge said that the county got money to clean that up because the home was first damaged in the March 3 storms.

“The damage was started by the storm of May (actually March) 3, 2012, and we got federal money to do that very work,” Johnston said. “Brandon (Thomas) sort of, helped steer…”

To which Thomas burst out, “No, no, no! Don’t get Brandon’s name in anything to do with that house!”

Wright then asked the judge if the house had already been falling down to which the judge replied, “I couldn’t tell you how long that house had been falling down, but it was determined to be part of the storm cleanup from the March 3 storm and that’s what the funds are for.”

Johnston then further explained that when the storm clean up crew was at the Kentucky Music Park, the debris they were cleaning up was more wood and tree limbs and the federal government wanted more structure debris or trash to be cleaned up and that was why the cleanup crew was called back.

— The court approved several other motions during the meeting including accepting the road aid contract; changing the status of a senior center employee, Joann Minton, from part-time to temporary; accepting the state audit and appointing Terry Minton, Wilda Barnes, and Matthew Canty to the tourism board.

After the general public spoke, Keown made a motion to adjourn the meeting with a second from Autry and after a vote, the meeting was adjourned.

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