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Court approves spending, taxing
In Sept. 17 Issue

The Russell County Fiscal Court tackled tax rates, and the Drug-free Workplace Program among numerous other topics in a 2-hour meeting Monday.

With a unanimous vote the county tax effective rate went up 2.25 percent as magistrates voted for a motion to "keep the same rate as last year."

Those rates of 6.7 percent for real property; 9.2 percent for personal property and 9.2 percent for vehicles and watercraft will yield a $20,792,020 increase in the revenue generated compared to last year, according to the court's records.

The court approved rate for the Extension service increased that agency's tax revenue by 4 percent. The rates of 2.07 percent for real property, 3.06 percent for personal property and 2.39 percent for vehicles and water craft were approved.

Magistrates Greg Popplewell and Steve Bledsoe voted in opposition to that increase.

For at least the third time this summer the issue of random drug testing for all county employees was before the court.

County Attorney Mark McGaha advised the court that in both his opinion and that of an attorney for the Kentucky Association of Counties, referred to as KACo the random drug testing of all county employees would leave the county open to lawsuits for unreasonable search and seizure.

Cathy Tupman, who handles such administrative issues for the court, said she'd asked KACo officials why they offered the discount on their insurance for implementing a program their staff lawyer says is unconstitutional.

"They said they didn't know it at the time," Tupman reported to the court.

Magistrate Jimmy McQueary made the motion that they return to the 5-pannel drug testing only for those employees holding commercial drivers licenses.

He said he was not opposed to drug testing, but he felt that the federally mandated program the county had been following was sufficient.

Magistrate Ronald Johnson seconded the motion and it passed with all but Popplewell voting to end the "Drug-free Workplace program."

A new pro-agriculture proposal came before the court this week, as it has in other area counties recently.

Victor Rexroat, with the Kentucky Farm Bureau, asked the fiscal court to pass a "Right to Farm" ordinance.

He said the ordinance would assure that farmers would not face nuisance lawsuits over normal farm operations from new non-farm residents that move in from urban areas.

Rexroat stressed that the protections extend only to "normal farm operations," such as the dust from field work, bawling cattle or odors normal to feed lots.

The court passed the first reading with all but Greg Popplewell voting in favor.

The issue of a dump truck for the county road department re-emerged as the magistrates were told that the engine was bad on the most recently purchased truck.

The court was told that repairing the truck purchased from the state auction last year would be too expensive, and purchase of a 1988 Mac dump truck was recommended by County Judge Executive Mickey Garner.

The cost of the replacement truck was quoted at $10,500 and the court approved the purchase.

"We need to stop throwing good money after bad trucks," Popplewell said. He suggested that the county would be better served by purchasing a new truck.

Magistrate Ronald Johnson said he agreed and suggested looking into the matter before another truck was needed.

Popplewell was the lone vote in opposition to the purchase of the used truck.

The county's jail, both the new and old was on the agenda.

The court approved paying bills relating to the construction of the new jail, with the exception of a $12,207 bill presented by the project contractor, Branscum Construction.

Members of the court said they'd expected such work to be under the contract they'd approved with the company, and were not expecting this, so had to examine it before approving payment.

The jail report listed an average daily prisoner count of 45, with 16 hours of overtime for jailers in August.

The members of the court were reminded that the opening of bids for the construction of the jail was set for Tuesday.

A presentation was made to the magistrates regarding an alternative to a program already running in the county.

The court is considering changes to the dead animal removal program that has been operating in the county. Henry Mattingly of Winchester said they instituted a removal program for Clark County after the contractor there said they were getting out of the business. He offered to include Russell with the 22 other counties the group would be picking up from daily.

Presently the county has a grant for such a program and had been working with another contractor, but the cost is reportedly higher and pickups are less often. At present the farmer has been paying the difference between the amount paid by the grant and the rate charged by the removal contractor.

Mattingly said their rate was $15 per animal cheaper than the other contractor and they wold run a truck to the county much more often than the present contractor.

The issue was tabled until the next meeting of the court to allow time to investigate the present system further.

In other issues before the court-

Dale Turner, with the 2010 Census, thanked the court for its participation in readying the county for the "big count" starting next March.

He said this year's form is much simpler than those in the past, and is very important for the finances of the county, cities and school district, as well as deciding representation in congress.

The court approved a change to the program initiated to promote recycling at county schools. Garner said that in the past the school bringing in the most bags of recyclables every month won a plaque.

He suggested changing that to a quarterly award and giving the winning school $500 at the end of the year. Bledsoe suggested basing the awards on the amount collected per student enrolled in the school to prevent the larger schools from having an unfair advantage.

It was noted that the only school to win so far has been Union Chapel Elementary.

The second reading of grants for the recycling center and BRUSS North America were approved.

A citizen complained to the court regarding the condition of D. Mann Road. Steve Bell said the concrete company's trucks are driving on that county road rather than using their driveway, and in doing so are damaging the road.

He also complained that a contractor repairing that road applied left over blacktop to the parking lot of the company rather than to a graveled road cut just down the road.

Bledsoe said he'd miss-spoke when commenting on that previously. He said it was his fault that the crew was unaware of the area in the road that also had needed patching.

Donation of the use of a backhoe and operator was approved for the Lake Cumberland Cleanup.

The court approved $667 for carts to remove trash from the courthouse.

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The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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