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Joint meeting of city, county governments open door for future collaboration

From left to right, Magistrate Sam Hutchins, Mayor Dick Heaton, Councilman David Dones, Magistrate Jeff Lear; Judge Executive Dean Watts, Councilman Roland Williams, Councilwoman Kecia Copeland, Councilman John Kelley, Councilman Joe Buckman, Councilman Bill Sheckles, Magistrate Bernard Ice, Magistrate Keith Metcalfe and Magistrate Jerry Hahn.

 

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 — History of sorts was made during noon hour Thursday in the realm of cooperation between two local governments when the Bardstown City Council and Nelson Fiscal Court held a joint meeting over lunch.

BARDSTOWN MAYOR DICK HEATON

The joint meeting was the first of its kind in more than two decades, according to Judge Executive Dean Watts. The idea has been a joint session of both governments has long been discussed, but making such a meeting happen has been more difficult to implement.

Watts called the meeting “an introduction” to what participants hope will be the first of a series of meetings that will allow both governments to discuss solutions to common problems.

Watts and Mayor Dick Heaton provided the assembled council, magistrates and city/county employees in attendance a review of what each government has been working on lately, and both discussed the pension crisis and how it will affect each government.

Heaton said the increases in mandatory contributions anticipated for Fiscal Year 2018-19 to the County Employee Retirement System (CERS) will cost the city more than $900,000 additional dollars.

NELSON COUNTY JUDGE EXECUTIVE DEAN WATTS

In order to pay that large an increase, Heaton said it may be necessary for the city to postpone some of the capital improvement projects that were being planned for the next fiscal year.

For county government, Watts said the increased CERS contribution will amount to about $775,000 for Fiscal 2018-19. He and county treasure Rhonda Fenwick are prepared to deal with the additional expenses if the General Assembly fails to take action to spread the increased contribution over a period of time in order to ease the financial strain on local governments.

Councilman Bill Sheckles, who was recently named to the Kentucky League of Cities board of directors, said the KLC is advocating for local governments to back a move to separate the CERS from governance by the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS). Watts said the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) is also supporting the move. Both governing bodies approved a resolution in support of CERS leaving the KRS.

Watts said that in conversation with state legislators, he didn’t believe the General Assembly would approve such a move when it meets in January.

One of the long-term issues both government face is finding a location for a future industrial park, Watts said. The Nelson County industrial park on Parkway Drive has 152 acres available, but only 40 to 50 acres of that is suitable for industrial development, he said.

Councilman Roland Williams listens to the discussion during Thursday’s joint meeting of the Bardstown City Council and Nelson Fiscal Court.

One of the issues involved in locating a site for an industrial park is a location that has access to the necessary infrastructure — transportation and utilities like water, electric and natural gas. Watts said that bringing those necessary utilities to a site can add substantially to the cost of developing a site.

Part of the work in locating suitable land for an industrial park should also involve a new comprehensive plan. The plan examines the land use of the county versus the needs for new housing and industrial development, and offers guidance on both.

Creating new residential housing could be affected by a lack of suitable land and utilities to serve hew housing developments, which makes planning ahead for land use important.

FALLEN OFFICER MONUMENT. Sheriff Ed Mattingly told the group that officers who are members of the local Fraternal Order of Police are working to raise funds for a monument to honor officers who died in the line of duty in Nelson County.

Mattingly praised the city council’s selection of its new police chief and said the relationship between the sheriff’s office and police department is working well.

Magistrates Keith Metcalfe, left, and Jeff Lear listen as the mayor and judge executive report to the assembled legislative bodies.

REPAIRING PAST DIVISIONS. Watts said he had fielded questions related to repairing the divisions that led to the separation of the city and county fire departments and the end of the joint city-county recreation efforts.

Watts said the city and county fire departments wouldn’t be put back together, but said that both departments are cooperating together and provide mutual aid to each other when requested.

Regarding recreation, Watts said that at the time of the split, the county’s recreation efforts were ready for a full-time person to manage recreation and Dean Watts Park. And while the city and county recreation departments probably would not merge, he said that both city and county recreation departments could share ideas and work together.

PURPLE PURSE CHALLENGE. The meeting ended a couple of group photos — one of the council and fiscal court together, and the second with the group being photographed with the “Purple Purse” as part of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Purple Purse Challenge.

The Purple Purse Challenge is a fundraiser that benefits the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s emergency fund, which offers emergency assistance to domestic violence survivors.

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