By Greg Bird
Two weeks after the announcement that the Animal Protection League would be surrendering their contract with the County, members of the Board met with the Fiscal Court during a 42-minute executive session Thursday night to negotiate getting the contract back.
Following the closed-door session Magistrate Roger Phillips made a motion to award the APL a new, 6-month contract as of January 1, 2020, to continue housing stray dogs for the county. With no discussion a vote was called and the motion passed by a 5-0 vote.
No rationale was given for the decision at the meeting, but both Judge Executive Jimmie Greene and APL Chairman Ricky Longmire offered comments following the meeting.
Since the Board had announced they would be surrendering the contract, a new contract will have to be drawn up and signed by both parties. Judge Greene stated this week the contract will be essentially the same as before, but some language would be strengthened to better protect the county and ensure the animals are well cared for when at the shelter.
Longmire said he was pleased the Fiscal Court was willing to offer the shelter a second chance, and stated the APL asked for no concessions in the new contract.
“I think it is good for McCreary County,” Longmire said. “I’d hate to see our tax dollars leave the county, so they decided to give us another six months.”
“We didn’t do as bad a job as some people think, and the Magistrates decided they want to give us a chance for another six months.”
Longmire said the make-up of the Board has been changed to better oversee the operation, and a new shelter manager has been put in place for the day-to-day operations. Pam Duncan, the former manager, has stepped down from the position, but will still be active with the shelter with coordinating rescues.
Longmire said he and the Board would work hard to ensure the shelter operates at a reliable level, and he knows the Fiscal Court will be monitoring it as well.
“They’re going to watch it closely, and I’m going to watch it closely,” he said.
When APL first announced they would be giving up the contract, Judge Executive Jimmie Greene had contacted the Knox/Whitley shelter, and began making preparations to enter into a contract with the facility at the start of the new year. A contract had been drawn up, with the same costs and provisions before, but the shelter had asked for an additional $7,500 from the county to cover the cost of hiring extra staff to handle the expected increased work-load.
A representative from the Knox/Whitley Animal Shelter was on hand at Thursday’s meeting. Prior to the executive session she stated the shelter was prepared to work with the county again, and a citizen had donated the money to cover the additional cost, so there would have been no additional cost to the county.
Controversy around the shelter erupted last month after photos were emailed to Lex18 News, alleging to show mistreatment of dogs at the facility. Though a visit by the news station, and county officials failed to turn up any direct evidence of wrongdoing, there were still concerns over the facility’s capability to handle such a large number of animals. Two weeks ago, when the APL Board met and announced that they would voluntarily give up the contract, representatives said that the sheer number of animals turned in to the shelter had overwhelmed their capacity and hindered their ability to keep up with the demand.
In other business the Fiscal Court approved the first reading of the County’s new alcohol ordinance, setting the stage for legalized sales of beer, wine and liquor early next year.
The court approved the first reading of the ordinance by a 4-1 vote – with only Magistrate Bill Hale voting against. The court will still have to do a second reading – prior to January 5 – in order to make the ordinance official. Changes can still be made to the ordinance between the first and second readings.
The ordinance that passed Thursday does not allow for quota retail drink licenses, effectively prohibiting bars or taverns from operating. That license would have permitted businesses to sell beer, wine or liquor by the drink – with no requirements for food sales.
There still will be options for businesses to sell by the drink, as there are three licenses available for such activities: the non-quota type 2 and 3 retail drink licenses and the limited restaurant license. The type 2 and limited restaurant allows for the sales of beer, wine or liquor to establishments that maintain a seating capacity of at least 50, and have 50 percent or 70 percent respectively of their revenue come from food sales. The type 3 license would allow for private clubs, distillers, bed and breakfasts or dining cars to sell by the drink as well.
The ordinance also sets the regulatory fees for sales of alcohol at six percent. State law dictates that counties or cities cannot collect in excess of five percent of annual sales in regulatory fees, but can set rates above that percentage. If, at the end of the year, it is found that the collections surpassed the five percent allowable, the ABC office would have to issue refunds to affected businesses.
One issue that was not included in the ordinance was allowing Sunday sales. State law prohibits sales on Sunday, or after midnight on other days, but allows counties to include a special license permitting Sunday sales. Such a license would cost businesses an additional $300 per year if allowed.
Magistrate Hale explained his “no” vote after the meeting by stating he would be in favor of Sunday sales since not allowing it would also prohibit the American Legion from selling on Sundays, and he did not wish to do anything that would potentially harm veterans.
Citizen Tony Hansford, who was the driving force behind getting the question on the ballot in November, criticized the Fiscal Court for opting to not include a special license allowing sales on Sundays.
Hansford said he felt the move was foolish, as he believed the decision to obtain a license should be left up to the business owners. He stated certain places, such as restaurants, should have the option to sell or else they would be missing on revenue from people who wanted to watch sporting events.
“You’re taking money out of the county,” he said. “You should leave it up to the businesses, it’s their choice. What kind of money are we going to lose by not selling on Sunday?”
The ordinance does establish the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator position, but did not establish a salary, or name anyone to the post. The ABC position would be paid entirely out of revenue generated by regulatory fees.
Judge Executive Jimmie Greene informed the Fiscal Court that the county received $41,000 in Occupational Tax fees from the South East Kentucky Regional Industrial Park in Corbin. The park is a joint venture between six counties: Knox, Bell, Laurel, Whitley, Clay and McCreary, and generates occupational tax revenue to be shared between the entities. Judge Greene stated that the operators of the park would be asking for a $10,000 contribution from each county to assist with salary and marketing costs. That issue will likely be voted on next month.
The Judge also noted that state auditors have completed the Fiscal Court audit for the previous fiscal year and had been informed it was “the best audit they had seen for McCreary County.”
The audit covers the last six months of Judge Doug Stephens’ term and the first six months of Judge Greene’s. The audit will be released publically once Judge Greene has an opportunity to respond to the document.
The Fiscal Court will meet in special session on January 3, and will meet in regular session on Thursday, January 9 at 6:00 p.m.