Fiscal court continues to struggle with revenue

Posted November 27, 2019 at 1:51 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court held another lengthy regular meeting last Thursday, November 21 with a wide array of topics on the agenda, including another closed session on personnel in a session.

All court members were present for the meeting that lasted a little over an hour.

The court first acknowledged receiving the monthly treasurer’s report and voted to approve the first quarter budget report, fund transfers and voted to pay claims and bills.

The following cash transfers were approved:

* Transfer from Occupation Tax to Jail account in the amount of $31,675;

* Transfer from the Occupational Tax fund to the General account of $48,200;

* Transfer from the Road fund checking account to the Ambulance account in the amount of $18,035, and;

* Transfer Road fund account to General account in the amount of $41,371.20.

Following a presentation from Kenneth Blevins, a building inspector from Liberty in Casey County, the fiscal court voted to hire him as the county’s building inspector and he is expected to also address the Albany City Council as well.

The past building inspector, it was noted, had some problems, with Blevins saying at one point the previous inspector had given the profession “a black eye.”

Blevins, a Level I building inspector, works five total areas including cities and counties. Their duties areto inspect new commercial buildings to make sure they are up to code before permits are issued.

Clinton County Judge/Executive Ricky Craig noted there was only one commercial building, to his knowledge, that had been constructed in Clinton County over the past year.

The motion to hire Blevins on a trial basis and work out details as needed was made by Magistrate Mickey Riddle and passed by unanimous vote.

On second reading of a proposed change in the county’s road ordinance pertaining to accepting county roads, there was a turn around in the vote since last month, when the court, on a split voted, opted to go back to a previous ordinance in regards to criteria for a road to be accepted.

At that meeting, the court voted 4-3, with the judge breaking the tie, to revert back to the previous ordinance which required roads accepted by the county to be blacktopped, rather than just subdivision areas.

Some magistrates, however, felt that would be a hardship on some residents in areas where only a few people resided.

At last week’s meeting, the court reversed itself on another split vote, basically keeping the latest ordinance in place that does not require the blacktopping of all roads before acceptance as long as other criteria is met.

A motion was again made to go back to the previous ordinance but this time, the magistrates voted 4-2 against the measure, with magistrate Gary Ferguson, who had earlier voted to revert back to the previous ordinance, voting no, meaning the current ordinance in place will stand.

Magistrates Ray Marcum, Terry Buster and Johnny Russell also voted no on the motion to go back to the previous ordinance while magistrates Riddle and Jerry Lowhorn voted in favor.

The court then approved payoff of two sheriff’s department vehicles and further voted to open a separate USDA account (a USDA grant funded the purchase for the most part) for payments on the vehicles.

The court then approved first reading of a budget amendment for this year to accept unanticipated funds received by the county that had come in late.

Some board reappointments were then approved. The court unanimously voted to reappoint Alan Gibson to the Tourism Commission and Barney Latham and Randy Speck to the Industrial Authority, all for three-year terms.

Following second reading of a 2019-20 year budget amendment, department head reports was heard by the court, including a long discussion on the recycling center’s financial woes.

Recycling Center Director Johnny Jones told the court there was a firm from Illinois that would be interested in purchasing a lot of the county’s recycling products and they would be in further contact with the county last week.

Magistrate Lowhorn then discussed the recycling center’s finances, noting its budget for employees was at $75,000. Magistrate Ferguson noted that anyone wishing to purchase recycling products needed to give a reasonable quote.

Although agreeing that recycling was not making a profit, or even breaking even at this point, magistrate Buster did not that it was providing a service to many people in the county.

Magistrate Marcum then pointed out that with over $300,000 in back taxes owed to the IRS the county had to pay this year, something had to be cut.

Residents in the county are now asked to bring their recyclable products to the recycling center, on a drop off basis only, similar to what nearby Cumberland County has implemented.

Ferguson also said the recycling center was hauling for local establishments for free, adding stores should not get a free pass while residents still had to pay to have their solid waste picked up at homes.

At the conclusion of the discussion on recycling, it was agreed that a couple of magistrates, Marcum and Buster, would talk with Cumberland County officials to see how they operate their recycling program and report those findings back to the court.

Road Foreman Danny Abston then gave his monthly report, noting the work the road crew had been doing the past month and also discussed an ongoing serious issue, that being the theft of county road signs.

“The road sign theft is a problem, and expensive to the county,” Abston told the court members.

The court briefly discussed possible ways of curtailing the theft of road signs but agreed that catching persons stealing the signs and having them prosecuted would be the best deterrent to solve the problem.

Kathy Smith, an employee at the jail, then gave the monthly jail report in place of Jailer Tracy Thurman. She noted there had been 49 inmates booked into the jail last month and also gave a rundown on county roadways where trash had been picked up by jail inmates.

The court then again entered into a closed session on personnel, and after about 20 minutes behind closed doors, announced in open session that no action had been taken.

When open session reconvened, magistrate Marcum discussed the past year’s audits, saying that for the past two years the same problems had been noted by state auditors.

His main concern was that some employees had been overpaid and asked if the county could do anything to collect that money.

It was noted that Clinton County Attorney Michael Rains was already aware of the situation and was looking into it and apparently trying to have employees that were overpaid return the money.

Assistant County Attorney Gary Little, who was at last week’s meeting, said the court could actually pass a resolution and file suits against those persons, but suggested they check with Rains to see where the situation currently stands.

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for December 19 at 5 p.m. and is open to the public. The meeting will be followed by the annual employee Christmas dinner.