Tourism hot topic at FC meeting
Changes may be in store for two County positions after a lively debate at the McCreary County Fiscal Court meeting Thursday night.
Members of the McCreary County Tourism Commission addressed the Court, asking for an indication on what the magistrates were planning to do regarding filling the Tourism Director position; vacant since Tara Chaney’s resignation in December.
Chairperson Susie Strunk Thompson read a prepared statement saying the commission has been “lost” since Chaney left the position, and was in “dire need of a new full time director” or risk losing the momentum tourism has gained over the past couple years.
Thompson stated Chaney had obtained more money in grants for the county than she had been paid in salary during her term.
Judge Executive Doug Stephens said he believed in the importance of tourism, and that something needed to be done if the county was to move forward.
Magistrate Roger Phillips agreed with needing someone to assume the role of Tourism Director, but stated he believed the County was not financially in a position to have both a Tourism Director and Economic Development Director.
“That position needs to be combined with Economic Development” he said.
Economic Development Director Susan Stephens stated in some ways the two jobs were related, but both jobs required full time attention.
“I disagree,” she said. “There are a lot of similarities, but with the momentum we have going on, at this point, there is too much going on to do both effectively.”
Jessie Kidd, commission member, appealed to the Court to not combine the positions and throw away all gains over the past few years.
“I feel we need two people,” he said. “Let’s not keep losing things.”
Kidd and other commission members stated they have volunteered their time since December to answer emails and other correspondence at the Tourism office, but felt a full-time person was needed to do the job.
“We have made tremendous strides when we hired a director,” commission member Dr. Peg Taylor said. “It is stupid to step backward at this point when we have come so far. If we step back and subdivide the position we might as well sit down.”
Phillips said he agreed someone was needed in the office, but felt strongly that both jobs were unneeded.
“For a long time I have been thinking one good person could do the job,” he said.
Magistrate Duston Baird agreed.
“I have thought so as well,” Baird said.
Baird also asked about the possibility of hiring a part-time director.
Phillips expressed his disappointment with progress in economic development in recent years.
“I think it’s a waste of money, we aren’t getting nowhere,” he said. “Just look at the bottom line, it’s not helped us in 10 years.”
Magistrate Jason Mann questioned if having two people was economically feasible at this time, and suggested having a Tourism Director and allowing the Judge Executive to handle Economic Development duties.
Judge Stephens stated his office is busy performing other duties, and felt both positions were necessary.
“Looking at it on the other end, I would have a problem with doing anything to diminish either one of those two,” he said.
County Attorney Conley Chaney stated he believed the positions could be combined and said he would contact the Department of Local Government to make sure.
Magistrate Phillips said he planned on contacting the DLG as well and called to table discussion until the next meeting.
In other Fiscal Court action the magistrates got their first look at a proposed budget for the 2015-16 McCreary County Jail Fund.
Based upon costs for the first three quarters on the current budget year, the proposed budget will be about $25,000 higher than the previous one, reflecting the higher than expected costs of transporting prisoners.
Magistrate Phillips asked on the status of an expected visit from the Department of Corrections to address the possible reopening of the jail.
Judge Stephens said that meeting hasn’t happened, but expects to hear from them soon on a date.
“We need to get an answer,” Phillips said, “This is a cancer that is killing the county.”
$500,000 of the budget would be reserved for prisoner housing, $28,000 for Jailer Jessie Hatfield’s salary, $47,500 for transports, $12,500 for fuel and $65,000 for medical costs.
The budget does not contain any funds set aside for repair work for the old McCreary County Detention Center, nor any operating costs.
Judge Stephens said Wednesday that if progress is made with the Department of Corrections regarding the possible use or reopening of the facility, the budget can be amended to reflect any changes.
Stephens added that the last payment on the facility has been made, meaning the County could issue a bond for funding to remodel the jail if need be.
The Court received and accepted one bid for a new Computer Assisted Dispatch system for McCreary 911. The equipment will be paid for out of grant funds received for the upgrade project underway.
The magistrates approved second readings on two ordinances concerning updating flood damage protection and the Emergency Management ordinance, as well as approving a budget amendment to reflect the KACo loan for the 911 project.
Approval for the Road Department to purchase a new one-ton truck was granted after a brief discussion of intended use. In addition to normal duties, the truck can be outfitted for a blade to help clear snow from chip and seal roads, which was a concern during the recent snow events.
Deputy Judge Andrew Powell added the County should develop a snow removal plan and publicize it to minimize public concerns.
The next meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday, April 9 at 7:00 p.m.