In July 28 IssueBy John ThompsonTimes Journal Reporter
The Jamestown City Council met last Thursday and became the fourth, and final, governmental entity to agree to contribute to continue 911 services at the Russell County Dispatch.
Deputy Judge-Executive Chris Ramsey presented the county's case for Jamestown's continued involvement and contribution to the 911 services.
"I'm here to not only ask for a financial contribution of $25,000 that will allow the enhanced 911 operation to continue in Russell County for another year," Ramsey said. "But I'm also here to ask you all to be willing to sit on a committee, the mayor and a councilman, as we look at addressing the long term effects of 911 on this community and how we can look at, not just a year to year, but also a five, ten year plan to keep it stable."
After referencing Ramsey's mention of a long term solution, Mayor Terry Lawless asked, "Would it be your thought that either you or the county judge will be back next year asking for additional monies?"
"Right now we're hoping that as we progress through this next year we become more financially solvent, and that we wouldn't have to keep coming back every year of seeking additional funding. That would be the ultimate goal," Ramsey responded. "I can't speak on their (the Fiscal Court) behalf, we are looking at a long term financial solution."
Ramsey said the committee the county wishes to put together would work toward that goal.
The recent increase in occupational tax, from .25 percent to the current 1 percent is expected to raise an additional $1.2 million a year in revenues for the county. The tax has only had one quarter of enactment and the real effects of the additional revenue stream are yet to be realized.
Mayor Lawless, as well as many members of the council, echoed the concern that the city of Russell Springs had raised before voting to contribute $25,000, and continues to echo the same concern as last year when both cities reluctantly contributed the monies; that the contribution is a form of double taxation upon the citizens of the city. 911 services and related boards are under the purview of the Fiscal Court and as such the Fiscal Court is directly responsible for the funding of the service.
But along with the reluctance, there was acknowledgement that many citizens of the city had also expressed the desire to keep the service, and the jobs it provides locally, within the county and to not turn it over to an outside operation.
"It would be awful nice to have something worked out within the next year and half, until the next interlocal agreement would come up," said Mayor Lawless. "Some means of support… rather than these two cities having to put in what I consider a double portion of it."
Councilman George Ralph Garr expressed that with a quick calculation of the numbers, it's his belief that the county would come back to the cities again next year. "I hope you don't have to come back, but it's not looking very good," Garr said.
This year's budget for 911 is $313,000. With the $25,000 contributed by the two cities and the ambulance board, a yearly grant through the Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) state funded program, the county is left to pay approximately $128,000 to make up the rest of the budget.
From the audience present, active community member retired Dr. James Monin gave his thoughts on the matter. Beginning by mentioning that our country was founded on the fact that the colonies had "taxation without representation," Monin went on to say that "the county owes us, the cities don't owe the county," going on to give the example that the recent water expansion led to an increase in water rates that citizens have to pay, yet the citizens of Jamestown "did not need any more water ourselves, yet we the citizens of Jamestown are paying… so we can have a bigger water system," said Monin.
Monin went on to question what the county provides to the city; that the city provides its own Police Department and Fire Department, and that the taxation base of the two cities are different, with different numbers in population, and that the city of Jamestown might pay on a per capita, based on Russell Springs payment of $25,000. The city of Russell Springs has approximately 2,300 residents while the city of Jamestown has about 1,700. He also suggested a loan to the county as an alternative to contributing the money.
"You people were elected to promote the ideals and improvement and betterment of the city of Jamestown, you were not elected to promote the county of Russell County; that's somebody else's job," Monin said.
After Mayor Lawless clarified that the county does not receive any revenues from the water plant the council voted to contribute the $25,000 toward an interlocal agreement, allowing for 911 Dispatch operations to continue through another year.
Both the cities of Jamestown and Russell Springs as well as the county received the $25,000 themselves through a contribution from the Lake Cumberland (Natural) Gas Authority.
Russell County Industrial Development Authority Director Gene Royalty gave a presentation to the council at the request of Mayor Terry Lawless.
Every year the cities, the county and various business interests "donate" $5,000 to the Authority as an entity tasked with attracting new businesses into the county, as well as seeing to the needs of business interests already located here.
Mayor Lawless said that the city if Jamestown has been contributing $5,000 every year for a number of years and "when we do a budget, like I told you the other day, I just wasn't going to make the assumption that the council was going to do anything; to come and ask for it and I would just leave it to the discretion of the council whatever they want to do with it."
Councilwoman Marcelene Taylor asked what projects were being worked on currently.
Royalty reported that tough times have made for difficulty in competing for scarce business expansion, startup or relocation. "There are 175 empty vacant buildings in the state of Kentucky," said Royalty, describing "spec" buildings, or buildings ready and outfitted for industrial usage, "might be anything from 5,000 square feet tobacco warehouse anywhere up to a two or 300,000 square feet building. But it's so competitive that whatever activities there's been is primarily existing companies expanding."
Royalty went on to describe recent close misses in attracting businesses, and that some communities are willing to give buildings to desired companies willing to set up shop in them; "That's how competitive it's been," said Royalty.
He went on to say we have two buildings empty and ready for industry, with the building on French Valley Road being one that has been built but never used, and the opening of what was the Hitachi Manufacturing building located in the Russell County Industrial Park that's been vacant for a couple of years.
The Hitachi Building is paid for as was the agreement when Hitachi rented the location to pay off the debt on the building whether or not they continued business there.
The Authority currently owns two loans, one for $500,000, at interest only for five more years, and another loan from the Cabinet For Economic Development that approximately $350,000 is still owed on.
"We are making monthly payments of principle and interest on that and we have the cash flow to take care of paying both of those loans off in case we didn't get someone in there," Royalty said.
Royalty noted that the highest number of jobs in manufacturing in Russell County was 2,075, the lowest was 1,680 and currently there are about 1,935 people being employed in manufacturing in the county. Also noted was that manufacturing payroll is about $52 million a year, or a manufacturing payroll taxing base of $1 million a week. Agricultural income for Russell County is $44 million a year.
Royalty concluded his presentation saying, "These are very unusual times. I don't know what the future holds, hopefully it turns around but I don't think anybody knows that just yet."
Royalty has worked in industrial development since 1960, starting in Harrodsburg.
Mayor Lawless asked the council for a budget amendment to allow for water plant lagoon cleaning, commenting that the process must take place every four to five years and that he'd simply overlooked the additional expense when putting together the yearly budget. The $26,000 budget amendment was passed.
A second reading of Ordinance 2011-004 regarding guidelines for new streets and roads being constructed within the city of Jamestown took place. The guidelines say that streets must be 24 feet width, 20 feet for traffic and two feet on either side for a shoulder as well as specifications for road construction material and ditchline requirements. The ordinance passed.
Public Works Director Ottis Skaggs reports that equipment needed for painting of the water tank on Wesley Street was ongoing and that repairs will begin this week. The project is expected to take approximately 50 days.
As a final note in the meeting, Mayor Lawless mentioned that Gov. Steve Beshear wrote President Barack Obama on behalf of the local Marina's due to the loss of revenue caused by the work being done at the Wolf Creek Dam Project. Councilman Larry Joe Murray said he was glad to see that the mayor's name was included among those endorsing the letter to the President.