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Court tends to other business
In March 17 Issue
By John Thompson
Times Journal Reporter

A fiscal crisis may be at hand for the county, but the Russell County Fiscal Court had other business they also had to tend to at the regular monthly meeting on Monday.

The monthly bills were brought up for a vote, and after a discussion of salt purchases, it was observed that the more salt that is used to clean the roads, the more damage it will ultimately do to those roads, requiring increased maintenance.

The court voted to pay the detention center bills that included the last period prior to the new jail opening and the few accrued after it was opened.

Local PRIDE coordinator H.M. Bottom told the court that he has applied for this year's PRIDE grant with the expectation of receiving $7,500 for the spring cleanup, free dump day and illegal dump cleanup. Bottom said he also contacted PRIDE in Somerset to see if it was possible to receive more funds. He said he received the answer that if all monies are not used we may be eligible for more.

Bottom also requested a renewal of his ability to deal officially with FEMA and state people in the event we were to have a flood or local disaster. Being designated as the "Applicant's Agent" allows Bottom to assess damages like we had in May, the flood event for which Bottom said we will soon be receiving $24,000 after a disaster had been declared and state officials came to assess damage.

After County Attorney Kevin Shearer performed a second reading of the occupational tax ordinance and a lengthy session of debate and public participation, the court went into executive session in order to discuss county personnel layoffs after the measure failed to pass. Details of the failed measure and possible repercussions for the county can be found in the front page article in this issue of the Times Journal.

Before presenting the court with the jail report, County Jailer Bobby Dunbar paid back the court $1,900 that had been borrowed to purchase televisions for the inmates. The repayment is made by the inmates. "The inmates bought those TV's out of their commissary. That's all you can spend their money on is the inmates," Dunbar said.

Jail Report for the month of February: total inmates 70; income - jail fees $283.09; medical co-pay $413.15; booking fees $1,628.49 taken in since opening jail. Total income $2,324.73. The overtime of 112 hours due to transportation costs moving the inmates and the slow process of booking into the new jail.

"Everything is running as well as can be expected," said Dunbar about the new jail. "We had 86 inmates when I went in this morning. Seventeen of those were the paying customers, state inmates; we'll lose one of them tomorrow. They're hard to find guys, right now," Dunbar continued. "A couple of years ago when you all voted this, they were plentiful. Right now they're hard to find. We've traveled quite a few miles just to find a few because they're the paying customers."

Sheriff Larry Bennett presented a check for $2,417.90 to settle the fee account through his office.

The court agreed with Judge Executive Gary Robertson's recommendation of Sheldon Stephens to the hospital board to replace Rodney Johnson, whose term has expired.

New Russell County Hospital CEO, David Rasmussen presented an update on the hospital activities. After expressing appreciation for the staff mentioned a few goals they were working on, including; increasing patient satisfaction to the 90 percent level, improving in-patient/out-patient waiting room, and increasing quality scores in pneumonia, cardiac heart failure and acute myocardial infarctions among other goals set with hospital staff. He also announced that the hospital was going tobacco free, and that tobacco use would not be allowed on hospital grounds.

Among the goals is the already announced plan to remodel and expand hospital services. The 30,000 square foot addition includes a new emergency room, new imaging center, and new space for laboratory and to enhance operating capacity. "We're about 95 percent with the design phase," said Rasmussen, "The next phase is to take it out to bid. We're working with the USDA to obtain a loan to handle that."

Rasmussen was questioned whether he foresaw problems with paying back any loans if the state continues to have budget problems with Medicaid/Medicare. "That's the $100 question," said Rasmussen, who explained that as a critical access hospital we may not be as affected as other hospitals. "Our funding mechanism is a cost based reimbursement for Medicare and Medicaid," said Rasmussen, "so essentially 60 to 70 percent of that funding will stay there, as a federal statute." Rasmussen went on to say that some areas would like see payment reductions, depending on type and extent of coverage, for example, "Physical therapy would be another area that would be cut," Rasmussen said. "They pay us $75 per encounter and it will drop to $45 per encounter, is what is proposed, so there is an effect."

The court voted to transfer $200,000 from the general fund to the jail fund.

The court accepted resolution #11-02 - County Road Aid contract. This is a rural road aid the court has to pass each year in order to make a contract between Russell County and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The contract covers the 2011-12 fiscal year.

District 3 Magistrate Ronald Johnson asked to have two roads brought into his district; Pearl Dunbar Rd and Beech View Dr. District 2 Magistrate Brook Cochran asked to have Alfred Antle Rd. brought into his district.

The court was asked to donate to the Kentucky Conservation Officers Association, to which the court declined.

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