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Court to look at nuisance ordinance?

Photo by Greg Bird Magistrate Jason Mann referenced this building on Main Street in particular when discussing the possible need for an ordinance to deal with damaged and neglected structures.

Photo by Greg Bird
Magistrate Jason Mann referenced this building on Main Street in particular when discussing the possible need for an ordinance to deal with damaged and neglected structures.

The McCreary County Fiscal Court is hoping public input will help them draft a nuisance ordinance to rid the county of damaged and potentially hazardous buildings.

Magistrate Jason Mann asked what authority the County has in condemning and removing dilapidated buildings on the grounds that they pose a health and safety risk to citizens.

He cited a building located next to the Dairy Bar on Main Street in Whitley City. The building has been vacant for several years, and the Magistrate expressed concern it could collapse at any time, creating a further health and safety risk, as well as damaging the nearby business.

Deputy Judge Andrew Powell said it would be up to the County to draft an ordinance in order to deal with such issues. One question would be how to pay for the demolition of a condemned building, since the land owner may not be able to afford the cost.

One option would be to apply a lien to the property, so in the case it would ever be sold, the County could recoup the cost.

Knowing it could potentially be an unpopular subject with the citizens of the County, the Fiscal Court opted to take things slow, and test the waters before considering such a law.

Before even drafting the ordinance, the Fiscal Court stated they would want to hear ideas from the public before any actions were taken.

Magistrate Roger Phillips asked to call a “Town Hall” meeting to gather input from citizens.

“I want to hear from everyone,” he said. “Let’s hear all sides.”

Judge Executive Doug Stephens called for the public meeting on Saturday, October 10 at 10 a.m. in the Fiscal Court room, with a provision to change the venue if more space were to be needed.

The last time the Fiscal Court attempted to pass a nuisance ordinance, in 2003, public opposition was very vocal as they felt the law went too far.

A revamped version of a 1999 proposed ordinance, the 2003 version included provisions for grass length, vehicles on blocks, and other limitations, the vociferous outcry ultimately scuttled the ordinance before it could be enacted.

Acknowledging the overreach of the previous attempt, the Fiscal Court wanted to ensure any ordinance they considered in the future would deal specifically with dilapidated buildings, and not impose other restrictions.

The Fiscal Court also accepted the 2015 rates from the special taxing districts and set the County’s rate for the year.

As previously reported, the County and all taxing districts, with the exception of the McCreary County Board of Education, kept their rates the same as the previous year.

Citizen Pat Coffey expressed his displeasure at the school board increase, and asked if the Fiscal Court could reject it.

Since the Board of Education is an elected office, the county has no authority over their tax rates, it was noted.

“If it were up to us, we’d vote this down,” Magistrate Phillips said. Adding the Fiscal Court’s role is just to accept the rates, not approve them.

Tax rates for the Library (7.7), all five fire districts (10.0), Soil Conservation (1.7) and Health Department (4.0) remain unchanged.

The County tax rates will also remain unchanged with Real set at 9.50 and Motor Vehicle and Watercraft set at 20.40.

In other Fiscal Court actions Thursday:

The Court opened bids for the refurbishment of an ambulance for McCreary County EMS.

Peach State was awarded the contract with the lowest bid of $88,295, of which $50,000 in grant funds will be used. The remainder of the balance will come from the ambulance fees set aside each month for just such a purpose.

The new ambulance will be the third such refurbished unit in the fleet, none of which were paid for using tax funds.

The County also agreed to enter in to a two-year contract with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter. The first year of the contract will see the County paying a $30,000 annual fee, with the cost rising to $40,000 next July. All counties will pay the same rate Judge Stephens said.

Magistrate Phillips asked the Judge to “shop around” for a possible cheaper alternative.

County Attorney Conley Chaney informed the Court that the “rocket docket” program is in place, and if successful, could save the County money on the housing of inmates by shortening the time between the initial arrest and resolution of the case.

Chaney also noted he is working on an ordinance that would officially abolish the airport board, and take the facility wholly under County ownership. That ordinance should be ready by the October Fiscal Court meeting.

Magistrate Phillips also asked for an update on the SMART loan program, specifically on delinquent accounts.

Chaney informed him that letters have been sent out to past due account holders, with Judge Stephens noting several have begun to make payments, with potential legal action pending on the rest.

Phillips stated several of the loans noted in the recent Auditor’s report, are older loans that were improperly documented and beyond the reach of collections.

Stephens said the loans made in the past few years all have the proper collateral attached, and would be easier to pursue if they fall behind in the payments.

“We have to be smarter on our SMART loans,” he said.

The next regular scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be Thursday, October 8 at 6:00 p.m.

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