Unsurprisingly the McCreary County Fiscal Court voted 3-2 to approve the second reading of the county Garbage Ordinance, opening the door for prospective waste collection companies to submit proposals on taking over the franchise for the next five years.
Calling it a “win-win” for everyone, Judge Executive Doug Stephens said residents will receive lower collection rates, and whichever company is awarded the contract will see higher revenues with expanded enforcement as part of the new ordinance.
Magistrate Roger Phillips, who has been a dissenting vote (along with Magistrate O.L. Perry) on both the first and second readings, questioned what had really changed in the ordinance, other than pricing.
Judge Stephens noted that the ordinance contains the same penalties for not participating in garbage collection, but does not contain the word “mandatory.” He also stressed that enforcement will be key to making sure all households and businesses comply with the law.
Deputy Judge Andrew Powell stated when the garbage ordinance was originally enacted in the 1970’s, the word mandatory was included, but it was not popular among the citizens of the county.
In 1993, he said, during Judge Jimmie Greene’s administration, the word was replaced with “universal.”
Since then enforcement has been lax, leading to less than 50 percent participation over recent years.
Phillips restated his belief that no company would submit a proposal on the current price structure, which include substantially lower residential and senior citizen annual pricing and asked what the Fiscal Court could do if no bids were received by next month.
Judge Executive Stephens stated if the County were to receive no bids on the contract, “there are several different options we can go with,” which could include restructuring the ordinance and declaring an emergency to get it enacted before the current contract expires at the end of the year, or negotiating with prospective waste management companies to come to an agreement.
With Phillips and Perry voting against, the ordinance still passed by a 3-2 vote.
Another controversial measure passed the first reading Thursday night: the proposed 3 percent restaurant tax.
While the Court prior to the vote held little discussion on the ordinance, during the Citizen Participation portion of the meeting three citizens voiced their concerns over the tax.
If a second reading is held and passed patrons at local restaurants, delis, and other establishments that sell and serve pre-prepared meals will have to pay an additional three percent on top of actual cost and sales tax.
That additional fee would be collected and, by law, put in to the Tourism fund to be used to enhance tourism efforts in McCreary County.
In an earlier meeting it was estimated the tax could bring about $300,000 annually
Vicki Kidd asked Judge Stephens if any study was done to see what possible affects local restaurants and customers would see if such an ordinance was enacted, to which there was no direct reply.
Kidd stated she understood the County’s need to raise revenue, but felt the tax would hurt, rather than help.
She noted single parents and low-income families might not be able to afford the extra charge when dining out, and may opt to stay home instead – thus hurting the local restaurants.
“I know I’m not going to eat out as much,” she said. “I don’t think it is the right time.”
Kathy Reed, of the 109 Board, suggested the Court consider changing the tax from three percent to one percent starting out to get a better understanding of the affects.
Adam Phillips asked if Judge Stephens had verified if McCreary County was legally able to pass the tax, since KRS statutes 91A.400 stipulates only cities of the fourth or fifth class were able to pass the tax.
Stephens said while he had no direct confirmation that the county was able to pass it, he noted he also hadn’t been told he couldn’t and was “encouraged” to try it.
Since McCreary County has no incorporated cities, the county as a whole is considered a fifth class city in many similar circumstances, and should be as well in this case.
Phillips also asked if the Fiscal Court would have control over how the money was spent.
Judge Stephens stated the funds would be put directly into the Tourism, Economic and Community Development Fund, but the Court would have final approval of how it was spent.
The ordinance dictates any revenue from the restaurant tax is to be spent on “funding of functions related to tourism, economic and community development,” which seems to run contrary to the statute authorizing implementing the tax, which specifies the money is to be used solely for the use of promoting tourism.
Judge Stephens stated there were different “interpretations” of the ordinance, which could possibly allow for the funding to be spent on projects that could be considered tied to tourism.
A 2012 Kentucky Attorney General’s opinion on how a restaurant tax could be spent, does state the funding can be used on projects as long as they are tied to the “promotion of convention and tourist activity,” but also notes the money is to be spent by the tourism commission- not the county.
The ordinance requires all restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, delis and street vendors to levy an additional 3 percent tax to each food order, and submit a monthly report to the Fiscal Court along with payment.
Penalties for non-compliance can include a fine equal to five percent of the tax due as well as a 12 percent annual interest rate on all past due taxes.
The Court passed the first reading of the ordinance with a 3-2 vote, with Magistrates Perry and Phillips voting against.
A second reading must be held before the ordinance is considered enacted and could be held at the November 10 meeting of the Fiscal Court. If passed it would take effect on January 1, 2017.
In other Fiscal Court actions the Court awarded a bid to Qualight Sports Lighting to install lights at the Little League field at the McCreary County Park.
Three bids were received in total, with Qualight’s bid of $41,800 winning the award. Magistrate Duston Baird voted against the bid, arguing that a bid from Knight Electric, while about $700 higher, provided steel pole instead of concrete, but Magistrate Phillips stated the Court was responsible to spend the money wisely, and noted “anything we get is better than we have now.”
The next regular session for the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on November 10 at 6:00 p.m.