Fiscal court has busy October meeting

Posted October 27, 2021 at 8:57 am

Clinton Fiscal Court had a busy regular meeting last Thursday, October 21, with all members present and several items of business on the agenda for the meeting that lasted a little over an hour.

Included on the agenda were two AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts) Resolutions pertaining to reimbursement for the work being conducted on the new Judicial Center, a presentation from DuoCounty Broadband, and the hiring of a financial advisor and legal firm to help handle almost $2 million in federal funds received due to the COVID pandemic.

The court first acknowledged receiving the treasurer’s report and approved the monthly report and payment of claims and bills.

On two separate motions, the court approved two cash transfers totaling $70,000, one to the jail checking account in the amount of $50,000 and one to the ambulance checking account for $20,000, both from the Occupational Fund.

A pair of AOC representatives were at the court session requesting the county approve two resolutions pertaining to the local governing body receiving reimbursement for fees related to the proposed Judicial Center, which is being funded by AOC.

Dan Rhoades spoke to the court about the resolutions, the first pertaining to the business and public properties corporation, with the intent to reimburse the county for such items as advertisement, appraisal costs of property, etc.

Rhoades said bonds would be sold on the project with bond anticipation notes to be obtained and used.

He noted that once the county passed the resolutions, it can be reimbursed for any costs related to the Judicial Center project development.

Judge/Executive Ricky Craig asked if there was a time line for reimbursement and Rhoades said that once figures are in place, they would draft the bond anticipation notes.

Magistrate Jerry Lowhorn, who has been a vocal opponent of the project since its inception, said that although he was against the project, the fiscal court would be kept informed of possible site locations and so forth, but said he “had not been asked the first time (his opinion) about a site location.”

The first resolution, that dealt with the public properties corporation, passed on a 5-1 vote with Magistrate Mickey Riddle making the motion, seconded by Ray Marcum, with Magistrates Johnny Russell, Terry Buster and Gary Ferguson, also voting yes and Lowhorn voting no.

The second resolution pertaining to the county being able to reimburse itself for any fees (through the corporation) for Judicial Center project costs passed by unanimous vote on a motion by Ferguson.

The court then heard a presentation by Sherry Selby and Eric West with DuoCounty Broadband, based in Jamestown, Kentucky, who discussed broadband and wireless fiber optic services in this area. The company also serves some businesses, entities and residents in the Albany/Clinton County area.

West told the court that the federal government had put a lot of money into expanding high speed internet, and in a perfect world, everyone would be able to receive fiber optic wireless service.

He noted the company was currently looking at a lot of different options and areas to expand. However, during the conversation, it was noted the process was expensive and currently unfeasible in many remote residential areas.

Magistrate Riddle questioned the cost for homes, businesses, and so forth for a mile, with Rhoades saying there were some federal funds called “reconnect funds” that could help defray some costs in that area.

West said they were trying to almost do it in phases, beginning with businesses and adding some residential customers along the way.

Magistrate Marcum suggested DuoCounty put together a blueprint for the county of what is being done and what can possibly be done, feasibly, in the future, to allow more people access to high speed internet.

Judge Craig said the county had a lot of problems with no (internet) service, with West saying fiberless is a “long way off.”

Some magistrates also noted that many Clinton residents had no access to the internet at all. He continued that it was bad when school kids who had to do homework via the internet had to drive to McDonald’s or some place in town to get access.

It was also noted that the places locally that are served by DuoCounty are very satisfied with their service, and both West and Selby said they looked forward to working with the court and in the county to try to help bring the service to as many locations as funds will allow.

Following the DuoCounty presentation, the court, on a motion by Marcum, seconded by Buster, voted to correct the spelling and change the name of a sign for a road for the state and county 911 mapping.

The change will come in the spelling which will now see the road named Stony Point Road. The sign on the road had contained a “e” in Stony Point, a common misspelling.

The court also appointed viewers for Huddleston Way, whose residents has petitioned to be taken into the county road system. Magistrates Johnny Russell and Jerry Lowhorn, along with Road Foreman Danny Abston, will view the road and report their findings back to the court.

The court then took action to hire a financial advisor and legal firm to help manage the just under $2 million in federal funds the county has received under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

All counties and municipalities received federal funding under ARPA to offset the financial burdens caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge/Executive Craig said Clinton County’s share came in two phases of just over $992,000 each and the funds do have specific, detailed guidelines on what the money can be used for and how it is spent.

Clinton and several other counties have hired such financial advisors and legal services to help oversee the use of the funds, in making sure they are spent according to federal guidelines.

The funding can only be used for certain purposes, not in the general account, but for things such as infrastructure, water, etc.

In requesting the court hire the services of the two entities, he noted that any misuse of the funds could result in the county giving the money back.

A motion was made and passed unanimously to hire Compass Municipal Advisors and Stites & Harbison, PLLC as financial advisor and legal services.

The court then entered into an approximate 20 minute executive session to discuss personnel, but upon returning to open session, it was announced no action had been taken.

Judge Craig then announced that James Stonecipher has retired as the county’s Animal Control Officer (ACO) and recommended current animal shelter director Jamie Scott Cross replace him at a rate of $14 per hour. Magistrate Jerry Lowhorn made the motion to appoint Cross as Animal Control Officer, which passed by unanimous vote.

Following the vote, Judge Craig said that things at the animal shelter were going well and the employees there were doing a good job.

Jailer Tracy Thurman then presented his report to the court members.

Thurman said that as of last week’s meeting, there were 19 inmates at the Clinton County Jail, but there are over 30 local inmates total in three separate detention facilities, with a few of those scheduled to be moved to state facilities.

In other business:

* Magistrate Russell thanked Kenny Denney for his work on fixing a bus turnaround in the Huddleston Way area.

* Judge Craig announced the county road department was in its final round of mowing for the season and commending that department and others for their work.

* Judge Craig also noted the ongoing problem of road sign thefts in the county. He said that recently, some 55 signs had been stolen within a two day period.

The theft of road signs, which has been an ongoing problem, seems to have no clear solution, but does bring penalties and fines for anyone caught stealing them.

It also costs the county money and creates a danger for emergency personnel, such as ambulances, police and fire departments when they are trying to locate where an emergency situation is occurring.

Prior to the meeting being adjourned, a tearful Magistrate Lowhorn, who has missed a few meetings battling cancer, thanked court members and the public for their prayers during his time of illness.

All the court members and others present welcomed the magistrate back to the court session and Judge Craig noted that although court members may have their differences on some issues during meeting, “When we get out that door, we are all still friends,” he said.

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, November 18, at 5 p.m. in the upstairs courtroom of the courthouse and is open to the general public.