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Busy fiscal court meeting this month
In June 16 Issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Editor

Russell Springs resident Kathy Foley, who has been a visible and vocal presence at recent fiscal court meetings, spoke near the end of Monday night's lengthy Russell County Fiscal Court meeting, stating that she is exploring the possibility of a taxpayer lawsuit against the legality of the recently enacted occupational tax cap.

Only two magistrates, First District's Greg Popplewell and Second District's Brook Cochran, spoke up concerning the tax and subsequent $800 cap per individual, which went into effect in April, at the meeting.

Popplewell told Foley he has gone back and forth on the issue and would likely vote to take the cap off if it came to another vote but that he was not going to make a motion to do so at this time.

Cochran mentioned he had spoken with various officials from other counties about occupational tax caps, and while he received good information he wasn't prepared to bring the issue back up again either.

Earlier this spring the court voted to increase the occupational tax from .25 percent to a one percent with a sunset clause, which allows the tax to return to .25 percent after two years.

Foley said she was forming a committee to look at the feasibility of a lawsuit against the county on the cap issue and if anyone was interested in the committee they could find her telephone number in the phone book.

Foley also requested an apology from 5th District Magistrate Larry Holt, whom she said had offended her in his remarks at the previous two fiscal court meetings when tensions rose as the two spoke on the tax issue.  

She told the court that if her name was either Terry Stephens or Randy Hart, two local business owners who spoke in favor cap at prior meetings, or even "Tom, Dick or Harry" she would have been treated differently.

Holt did not issue a response to Foley's request.

In other happenings at the meeting:

The court went into executive session for about 20 minutes to discuss possible litigation at the detention center.

Jamie Taylor Masonry Inc., a subcontractor, did some work at the jail and left what Robertson called an "unacceptable mess" at the jail.

"They were warned by the project manager, they documented everything," Robertson said. "They went ahead and got another company to do the cleanup, which amounted to $19,000 or thereabouts and we have been withholding that along with the other payment, which was $29,521.67."

Robertson said it was the court's hope they could get all the parties involved, which include G & G Contracting, Jamie Taylor Masonry, Inc., and Stephen P. Stoltz, the attorney for Jamie Taylor into County Attorney Kevin Shearer's office to let him act as a mediator on the $29,521.67.

"There is still going to be a $19,000 withholding until we can get this other deduction and who's at fault reconciled and that's where we stand," Robertson said. "Hopefully it will all work out."

o Jailer Bobby Dunbar gave the monthly detention center report, saying the daily average of inmates was 101 with jail fees being $369.27, prisoner reimbursements $3,374.60, medical prescription co-pay $528.74, perdiem $1,498.87, state inmates for both April and May $61,113, telephone reimbursements $5,885.96 and total income $71,970.44 with no overtime for this period.

Following a state inspection last week Dunbar said the only thing the jail must do was begin narcotics anonymous and alcoholic's anonymous classes in the coming weeks. Currently the jail has 34 state inmates incarcerated, Dunbar said.

"I think it is going real good guys," he said. "As good as to be expected."

o The court accepted a recommendation from their local insurance committee of a low bid of $437.43 with vision as the employee health insurance rate from McKinney and Blair Insurance Company, a business located in Jamestown. The court had their health insurance with Anthem the previous fiscal year. This fiscal year's plan begins July 1.

o County leaders voted to implement a USDA Feeding America commodity-based program during the meeting. Russell County is one of the few counties in the state not taking advantage of this commodity program but does have several families that would qualify based on income or family size.

Donna Diaz, executive director of the Lake Cumberland Area Development District, told the court that all of the other counties in the Lake Cumberland area use the program, serving between 200 and 800 families each month. The program is an honor-based system where one brings their proof of residence. The court voted to approve implementing the commodity program under the conditions that USDA officials deliver the food to the county at 3 cents per pound, not to exceed $225 per month. From there, it is the LCADD and court's hope that church and other volunteer groups would distribute the food one day each month free of charge.

o Judge-Executive Gary Robertson recommended the reappointment of Mark Antle to the Russell County Hospital Board and that Chairman James Gray be reappointed to the Ambulance Board.

He said Antle wanted to remain on the board for another term as the hospital board looks to expand the facility while Gray served the past year as chairman during tough financial times and that during that time the Ambulance Board has continued to try and shore up the financial side of the service.

Antle's re-appointment to the hospital board due to Antle's involvement and knowledge of potential expansion plans for the hospital.  

In two other board appointments, these for the library, Robertson recommended Ken Kimsal and Patti Lamb to replace Nick Shearer and Matthew Lunsford. All of these recommendations received unanimous support by magistrates.

o Ambulance Board Chairman James Gray and EMS Director Terry Hancock spoke to the court about the Ambulance Service's $1.3 million budget with Gray saying the cost to run 911 was detrimental to the ambulance service's bottom line and that the county knows now what it takes to run the service.

The new budget is only for four months, ending in October, as that is when the one-year interlocal agreement that was reached eight months ago expires.

Hancock said the fee schedules had also been increased to get more in line with surrounding counties which will also bring in more funds. The billing agency used now by the service also has upped money received by around 20 percent, Hancock said.

Gray also pointed out that the ambulance service did not raise tax rates a year ago but will likely have to do so this year in order to bring more funds in to help the service run efficiently. In another effort to save money, Gray said there is a possibility that the ambulance service will stop doing non-emergency runs in the county or to out of county hospitals in places such as Lexington or Louisville because in many cases the service doesn't even make their expenses back.

"This won't make us too popular," Gray said. The ambulance board was to meet Tuesday with that meeting being covered in Saturday's News-Register.

o The court passed the second reading of the 2011-12 county budget ordinance. Robertson said the total general fund budget for the upcoming year is $2,032,973 with a total county budget of $5,994,338 for the next fiscal year. The court also looked over fiscal year budgets for the Russell County Ambulance Service, LCADD, Extension Service and the Airport Board.

o Commonwealth Attorney Matthew Leveridge spoke to the court on what "rocket docket" is. To sum it up, it is basically a court or other tribunal that is noted for its speedy disposition of cases and controversies that come before it, often by maintaining strict adherence to the law as pertains to filing deadlines, etc.

"The idea of the rocket docket is to basically save money on the jail," Leveridge said. Leveridge likened Russell County to that of Rockcastle County, where they began doing "rocket docket" several years ago and are similar in size and population to Russell County.

In the event of such a docket, no violent crimes or sex crimes would be sent through the rocket docket as well as any cases where the victim vehemently is against it. The court would have to pay the salary for one of Leveridge's assistant commonwealth attorneys if they choose to go the route of the "rocket docket" as well as other state taxes and retirement on the attorney.

o The court passed an emergency ordinance on the $72,000 voting machine expenditures to account into the fiscal year's budget. The county recently received several new voting machines that were in used during the primary election last month.

o The court voted to move the detention center bank account to Monticello Banking Company to give them some of the county business as they have supported county endeavors in the past. The detention center account was previously at the Bank of Jamestown. Robertson said it was his hope that when another account comes due the county could move it to United Citizens Bank to also give them some county business.

o The court voted to transfer $50,000 in allocated funds from the general fund to the jail fund.

o County leaders also voted to give $100 to the Russell County 10 Year Anniversary of 9-11-01/Veterans Day Planning Committee for an event at the fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

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