In an effort to prevent diseases frequently spread through illicit drug users sharing contaminated needles (e.g. HIV AIDS and Hepatitis C), Terry Lawson and others from the Lake Cumberland Department of Health addressed the McCreary County Fiscal Court during their latest regular meeting to seek court approval for the Health Department to establish a harm reduction syringe exchange program (HRSEP) here in McCreary County. With there already being a significant number of HIV AIDS and Hepatitis C cases throughout Kentucky and with opioid drug use being the largest epidemic in McCreary County, officials for the local Health Department would like to further address the problem by accepting old needles from drug users in exchange for new ones while providing those who exchange needles with information, disease testing, linkage to disease treatment, and opportunities for drug abuse treatment.
According to the Health Department presentation, thirty years of research shows needle exchange programs reduce HIV and Hepatitis C, decreases crime, and protect first responders. Needle exchange programs also save money as the cost of a harm reduction syringe exchange program is less expensive than the cost of disease treatment. By providing for safe disposal of used needles, there is also less likelihood of used needles being discarded along roadways, etc. Acting on a motion made by Magistrate Jason Mann with a second by Magistrate Leroy Perry, the Fiscal Court unanimously authorized the health department to proceed with the syringe exchange program. Health department officials said it will be six months before the program is up and running. The program will be funded through the Health Department and various grants.
Judge Stephens informed the Court that funding through the Secure Rural Schools program could be cut, causing a significant shortfall for the County Road Department.
The SRS program generated about $400,000 for the County annually, with half going to the Road Fund and the remainder to the school district. The federal program, which had been kept alive through special authorization in Congress, was not re-authorized last year, and as such, a major decrease in funding could be seen if Congress does not act to preserve the program.
The funding is generated through revenues from timber sales and other ventures from the National Forest Service.
This past July the County received a check for only $38,000 from receipts, about $360,000 less than previous years.
The Fiscal Court is expected to pass a resolution urging Congressional leaders to fully fund and support the program in the future.
In tourism related news, Fiscal Court unanimously approved moving Christy Hill from part time Tourism Administrative Assistant @ 10.00 per hour to full time Tourism Administrative Assistant at the same pay rate. The Court also approved the appointment of Kristina McFeeters to the McCreary County Tourism & Convention Commission to fill the remainder of Nina Bradley’s term.
In updating the Fiscal Court, Occupational Tax Administrator Stephanie Tucker stated she had printed and issued 432 business permits (including non-profits) from approximately 690 eligible to file. Of these, about 60-100 are new filings. Tucker began issuing the permits in late spring. The permits are the result of an ordinance passed earlier this year requiring businesses to register with Tucker’s office or face fines for non-compliance.
McCreary County PVA Bruce Lominac addressed the court during the citizen participation segment regarding a bill sent to Fiscal Court by the Kentucky Department of Revenue. The bill, for PVA Deputy hires, claims the PVA owes about $4,000.
The letter is asking the Fiscal Court to withhold a portion of the monthly allotment it grants to the PVA in order to satisfy the debt.
Lominac stated his office is refusing to pay to the bill because he believes it is based on an unfair calculation, and would fight any attempt to pay it.
“I’m here to tell you-this is the beginning,” Lominac declared to the Court. “I’m not paying it and there is no statutory authority for you to pay. These are McCreary tax dollars to pay for PVA services here-not in other counties or to a PVA association.”
Lominac also stated that if the Fiscal Court would withhold the money from his allotment it would seriously impact his office’s ability to pay bills and could result in an inability to print tax bills this year.
Judge Executive Stephens stated he plans to seek legal counsel regarding payment of the bill.
The McCreary County Fiscal Court meets monthly for regular session on the second Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m. in the Courthouse.