By Greg Bird
Three years after a similar ordinance failed to pass the McCreary County Fiscal Court was asked to consider passing a smoking ordinance during Thursday night’s regular meeting.
Representatives from the Lake Cumberland Area Health District introduced language for a proposed public smoking ban to the court.
McCreary County Middle School students from the Star Students Against Tobacco group gave a brief presentation detailing the dangers of second hand smoke and urged the court to consider the ordinance for the betterment of public health.
No action was taken by the Fiscal Court Thursday night, but the ordinance could be introduced again at a future meeting for consideration. The current Fiscal Court had an opportunity to pass a similar ordinance in 2015, but failed to vote on a second reading, and the bill died with no action.
The new Fiscal Court, slated to take office in January could also consider the bill after the start of the new year.
The 2015 bill also called for a ban on smoking in public places, businesses and places of employment, and was introduced by Champions/UNITE, and supported by the LCAHD.
The first reading of the bill passed with a 4-1 vote, sending it to a public hearing. Both opponents and supporters of the bill turned out in force to voice their opinions, but a cautious Fiscal Court, citing a letter from the County’s insurance carrier warning of legal liabilities, opted to let the bill die without a second reading.
The insurance carrier, KaCO, has since amended their initial misgivings and are currently supporting anti-smoking legislation at the local levels. Counties that pass such measures could benefit financially by seeing insurance premiums lower and could be eligible for additional funding through grant programs.
According to the ordinance proposed last week smoking would be prohibited in all enclosed facilities within places of employment, including offices, lounges and cafeterias: outdoor areas within 15 to 25 feet of entrances and windows, as well as outdoor seating areas in restaurants and public venues
Penalties for violating the ordinance call for fines of $50 for individuals caught using tobacco products where prohibited Business owners found to be not in compliance with the law could see fines ranging from $100 to $500 for repeated violations and possibly face revocation of their business license.
The Fiscal Court also introduced a new ordinance establishing a new McCreary County Industrial Development Board to help the county capture money from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in lieu of tax payments that will be set aside for economic development from the state government.
Magistrate Roger Phillips assured citizens the new Board would not be able to enact a tax without Fiscal Court approval. Judge Stephens explained that while the Board would be considered a special taxing district under Kentucky Revised Statutes, the same statute establishes taxing authority can only be granted by the Fiscal Court. To re-emphasize the point, he included specific language in the ordinance detailing that provision.
According to a bill passed by the Kentucky Legislature this year about $6 million from the TVA in lieu of tax payments will go in to a pool of money to be divided among 39 counties for economic development. If full funding of the program is realized, each county could see about $150,000 in economic development funding annually.
One stipulation is that to receive the funding from the Regional Development Agency Assistance Fund each Fiscal Court would have to designate an agency in the county to receive the payment. The agency must use the funds for economic development and job creation, and can also leverage the money to serve as a local match for federal, state or private matching funds.
To satisfy the requirement the Fiscal Court voted to approve the first reading of the ordinance establishing the 7-person board. A second reading must also take place to pass the law.
The previous Economic Development Board was dissolved in 2010 after several members resigned. Since then an advisory board has been in place, mainly to review potential loan applications for the Revolving Loan Fund.
In other actions
The Court opened bids for new air conditioning and heating units for the courthouse. Only one bid was received from R.E. Michel of Somerset. The company bid a total of $53,533.43 for the six units. Judge Stephens noted the Administrative Office of the Courts will pay 77-percent of the cost for purchase and installation of the new units.
The court also approved a service contract with Clark’s Heating and Air to install the units, as well as providing future service for the courthouse and county-owned properties. According to the contract Clark’s will charge $220 per hour for installation, with the cost including all materials. Regular service will carry a cost of $55 per hour.
Judge Stephens addressed the recent audit, specifically the item concerning the finding that 90 fund transfers were done prior to approval from the Fiscal Court. Stephens stated it had been common practice for years, but auditors say it was improper.
The transfers occurred during times when the Fiscal Court approved payment of bills, but the county budget could not do so immediately. Once funding came in the money was then transferred to the individual accounts to make the payment.
He noted auditors found no impropriety in the transfers and there was no concern over money being misused. He also added that the recent increase of the Occupational Tax had alleviated much of the cash flow issue and such transfers were no longer needed.
Magistrate Phillips also asked about late fees and penalties included in the audit. Stephens said those arose from the lack of cash at the time, but should no longer be an issue with the increased revenue.
The court met in executive session for approximately half an hour at the close of the meeting to discuss a settlement offer on outstanding loans through the revolving loan program, but took no action on the offer.
The next regular-scheduled meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday, October 12 at 6:00 p.m. in the courthouse.