The court approved the second reading of the proposed Fiscal Court budget for 2011-2012. Judge Brock announced at the last meeting that the $21 million budget is largest in the county’s history, due in large part to the roughly $8.5 million road project for Asher Industrial Park. The county budget is in good enough standing that county employees will receive a raise under the proposal.
Brock pointed out that in the current economic climate, few counties, states, or private employers were able to include raises in the budget for the upcoming year. In Whitley County, he noted, county employees are being asked to consider voluntary layoffs. Bell County, in contrast, seems to be stable and Brock believes that the stability can be maintained.
All employees will receive a raise of at least 50 cents per hour. Positions that require special training, such as Sheriff’s Deputies, will receive more. Brock expects employee benefits to remain the same.
Judge Brock also commended the work of Clara Miracle and Irma Brooks in drafting the budget.
The court approved the second reading of Budget Amendment Number Four. The amendment reflects a $7500 federal PRIDE grant, a $50,000 increase in insurance premiums, and a $100,000 carry over balance from the previous fiscal year.
The court granted Judge Brock permission to advertise for bids on a paver and bigger dump truck for use on county roads. Brock proposed purchasing the equipment as a cost effective solution to help offset the current expense of asphalt. The county is the only one in southeastern Kentucky to do any of its own paving.
Brock explained that price of black top has doubled since he took office five years ago. Currently, the price of black top per ton laid is around $65 to $70, and about $55 to pick it up.
Also, the acquisitions of local businesses by Hinkle Contracting has eliminated competition in the industry.
“When we put our asphalt out for bids, we’re going to have one bidder. I don’t like that scenario,” Brock said.
The equipment currently used by the county crew can haul only eight to 10 tons of asphalt which leaves some employees sitting idle while they await the arrival of more materials.
“In order to pave effectively, you’ve got to be able to haul more pavement... By picking up a bigger truck, leasing a 20 ton truck we can offset that,” he explained.
The larger equipment will prove beneficial after the closing of a quarry on Highway 92. The county will no longer have access to stone in the north end of the county and will need to keep it stock piled.
“So by having a bigger truck, not only will we be able to haul more pavement when we’re paving, but as we haul stock from Middlesboro or from Virginia we’ll be able to get more per load,” Brock stated.
The judge will be seeking equipment that will fit into the budget.
The court also approved a motion to approve a payment of $68,600 to Holt Equipment Company for the purchase of a backhoe. The payment will be made with coal severance money, once it arrives from Frankfort.
The court approved Brock’s appointment of three people to serve on the reapportionment committee with Clerk Becky Blevins. Bell County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rob Lincks, Angie Miller and former committee member Coleman Lefevers will use the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau to reapportion the county’s districts to reflect a more equal population among all.
Members of the committee will be paid $75 per session. Judge Brock and Clerk Becky Blevins agreed that the task is not an easy one and will require a good deal of work.
A representative from Bell County Soil Conservation District joined the session to thank the court for its financial contributions and explain the role of the entity in the county. The Conservation District works to protect and improve the quality of our natural resources including soil, water, and wildlife.
The district works with local, state, and national groups to provide education to schools and secure grants to complete projects, like the 198 septic systems they installed in the county in the past three years.
“Over the years we have offered technical assistance in regards to farm management, erosion issues, woodland management, wildlife planning, animal waste facilities and educational outreach,” reported Conservation District employee Hannah Browning.
Dinah Presnell has announced that she will be leaving the Bell County Public Library Board of Trustees. The court appointed Pamela Thompson to take the position vacated by Presnell. Thompson’s term will expire February 28, 2015.
The court voted to move the next regular session of Bell County Fiscal Court to the first Tuesday, June 7th, rather than the second Tuesday. Court will begin at 10 a.m. as usual.
The court voted to accept a check from Sheriff Bruce Bennett in the amount of $30,000 from a Cops in Schools Grant. The money will provide a deputy at Bell County High School.
In other official business, the court additionally approved motions to:
• Hire Michael Andrew Jones as a part-time seasonal worker at the Bell County Road Department at $7.50 per hour effective May 19, 2011.
• Hire Jordon Partin as part-time animal shelter worker at $7.25 per hour effective May 10, 2011.
• Hire Aaron Sinkhorn as part-time Deputy Jailer at $7.25 per hour effective May 10, 2011.
• Change Jessica Turner Smith from part-time to full-time 911 office staff effective May 10, 2011.
• Change Donald Pace from full-time Animal Shelter worker to full-time Deputy Jailer at $7.50 per hour effective May 12, 2011.
• Accept Mason and Combs Road into the Bell County Road System in District Five.
• Accept checks from Sheriff Bruce Bennett in the amount of $68,121.80.
• Accept checks from Becky Blevins, Clerk.
• Hire Ashley Danielle Frady as part-time summer office worker for the county attorney at $7.25 per hour effective May 10, 2011.
• Pay bills and make necessary transfer.
• Accept treasurer’s financial statement for April.
• Accept sheriff’s claim sheet for the fee account for April.
• Approve the minutes of the last regular meeting held April 12, 2011.
Lorie Settles is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. She may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.