Jail, Wellness Center among ‘hot topics’ at court meeting

Posted February 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court discussed some “hot topic” issues that involve finances in one form or another at a call meeting last Wednesday morning, February 20. The meeting, with all members present, was moved up a day from the regularly scheduled February 21 date.

The court took up the seemingly ongoing issue of county employee health insurance, and a separate article on that issue can be found beginning on page 1 of this week’s Clinton County News.

Following a lengthy discussion on health insurance issues, the court discussed issues pertaining to the local jail, as one item of business on the agenda was to have been a presentation from a Department of Corrections official. That address was the result of a feasibility study on jail costs. However, Judge/Executive Lyle Huff said the study wasn’t complete last week and would be presented at a later date.

Late last year, then-magistrate Larry Hatfield had requested a feasibility study from the department to show specifically the costs related to either closing the facility and transporting inmates to other facilities, compared to costs of keeping the jail open.

When the matter on the agenda arose, Magistrate Mickey Riddle said that he and two other magistrates had traveled to area counties to find out the costs they would charge the county for housing local inmates if the local jail were closed. He said currently the county is spending up to $600,000 annually to keep the jail in operation and the cost may be cut significantly if local inmates are housed elsewhere.

Currently, there are only three other life-safety jails, outside of Clinton County, that is operating in the state. Riddle said, “We need to get our feet set now or we’ll be running all over the place.”

Magistrate Ricky Craig said, “I know there are local people that work here (at the jail) but we can’t keep providing $600,000 a year to keep it open.”

Some magistrates mentioned that Casey County was willing to house local inmates, if necessary, and inferred it would be much cheaper on the county.

Judge Huff, who is a proponent of keeping the jail open, said that if the jail were to close, the other counties which say they would take inmates now may not carry through and “then what are you going to do?” he asked.

Huff said that once the feasibility study is complete and ready to be presented, he would call a special meeting on the matter. No further action was taken last week.

Judge Huff also touched on the most recent Wellness Center financial problems, informing magistrates that it is the county’s and city’s responsibility to see the facility is kept open through 2016.

The original one million dollar state grant carries the stipulations and the judge showed a letter from Lynsey-Womack-Denney, Legal Counsel with the Department of Local Government (DLG), addressing questions he (Huff) had asked about. That question was whether or not Clinton County would be required to maintain and operate the Wellness Center should they be unable to continue to operate it themselves.

The response stated that, “Clinton County and the City of Albany are legally obligated by the terms and conditions of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) to ensure the operation…until at least June 8, 2016. Failure to do so would most likely require the County and the City to repay the entire $1,000,000 grant to the Department of Local Government.”

The grant ensures that all residents in Clinton County, a 53.3 percent low and moderate-income community, have access to the Wellness Center, for a period of no less than five years from the date of the project closeout. Those provisions, according to the DLG legal counsel, requires the city and county to ensure the operation and continued eligibility of the Center for the five-year period, or through June 8, 2016.

The options listed by Lynsey Womack-Denney was, “provide the additional funding necessary for the Center to continue operations,” “operate the Center under an alternative agreement as long as the aforementioned requirements are met,” or return the $1 million in grant funds.

Some court members questioned why no one from the Wellness Center board was at last week’s meeting and also implied they needed to give some answers to the questions surrounding their financial status.

No official action was taken at last week’s meeting. However, following the meeting, Judge Huff said he was considering asking for a “joint” meeting between the fiscal court, Albany City Council and Twin Lakes Family Wellness Center Board in an attempt to get some answers and work on solutions.

Mark Foster, with the Department of Transportation, also presented the state’s recommended list of roads to be paved under the Rural Secondary Road Program.

There are a total of $357,639 actual dollars for road repairs, including $135,606 in FLEX funds.

The three roads listed by the state for paving is 0.9 miles of KY 2277 (Sheltontown Rd.) to the intersection of Hwy. 829; 1.9 miles on KY 734, Neathery-Cave Springs Road; and 0.5 miles on KY 415, Cannon Mills-Albany Road.

The remaining work will be done with FLEX funds, which is down about $28,000 from last year, and based on recommendations made by magistrates. However, they noted that not much work could be done with that limited amount of funding.

When voting to pay claims and bills, Magistrate Riddle recommended pulling water meters at voting houses except during elections and Judge Huff said that would be taken care of. The court also approved the monthly treasurer’s report and fund transfers.

Prior to adjourning, they held a 25-minute closed session on both personnel and possible litigation but took no action on either matter upon returning to open session.

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, March 21 at 5 p.m. and is open to the general public.