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Fiscal Court OKs 2018-19 budget, considers EMS, planning commission fee hikes

Nelson Fiscal Court, from left, Magistrates Jerry Hahn, Bernard Ice, Sam Hutchins and Keith Metcalfe and Judge Executive Dean Watts.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 7 p.m. — Nelson Fiscal Court approved the first reading of its Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget at this morning’s meeting in the Old Courthouse.

Judge Executive Dean Watts discusses the county budget during Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting.
The budget includes a $750,000 line item for the renovations at the J. Dan Talbott Amphitheatre, the outdoor theater where “The Stephen Foster Story” will open its 60th season next Saturday evening.

Nelson County Judge Executive Dean Watts discusses the 2018-19 budget with the members of fiscal court.

Judge Executive Dean Watts told the court that the line item is not an expense the county will pay, but it is a pass-through expense. The funding will come from the Stephen Foster Drama Association, and the county will pay the bills for the renovations, he explained.

Fundraising is currently under way to pay for the amphitheater’s major renovation that will take place after the drama’s 60th season is complete later this summer. The drama association is in the process of occurring a group of major pledges  from local business and industry in hopes of funding most of the anticipated costs of the renovation. Watts wouldn’t mention names, but said the drama has significant support from local business and industry.

The county will open bids for the major amphitheater renovations tomorrow, Watts told the court.

TOURISM PLEDGE TO SUPPORT DRAMA RENOVATIONS. Mike Mangeot, executive director of the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist Commission, told Nelson Fiscal Court that tourism’s 2019 budget includes the commission’s $50,000 pledge to support the renovations needed at the J.Dan Talbott Amphitheatre.

Tourism is committing $50,000 a year for five years, Mangeot explained.

Mangeot also fielded questions about the drama’s 2019 budget — its allocations for promotions in particular.

Magistrate Keith Metcalfe questioned why the commission was spending one-third of its budget on promotion. More than half of the promotion budget is aimed at digital — online — promotion rather than promotions in print.

Mangeot explained that the digital promotions are a vital part of the commission’s efforts to make the public aware of the attractions here in Bardstown and Nelson County.

“If I could spend half my budget on promotions, I would,” he explained.

ROAD REPORT. The county has received an emergency grant of $101,448 that will be used for culvert repairs on Woodlawn Road.

County engineer Brad Spalding explained that a culvert that located approximately 20 feet under the roadway had collapsed and needed replacement. Another part of the road near the culvert also in need of structural repair.

The emergency funding is part of the 3 percent in gas tax money the state withholds each year and sets aside for emergency road repairs.

EMS FEES. EMS Director Joe Prewitt presented the court with the results of his study of the fee schedule used by several other EMS departments in other counties. The counties studied included Bullitt, Hardin, LaRue and Breckinridge counties.

Faced with higher operating costs, Prewitt said the services 2019 budget would either require a greater share of county money to subsidize the service, or it would need to raise revenue by adjusting its fees.

Of the four counties reviewed in Prewitt’s study, Nelson County’s fees were lower than three of the four county-owned EMS service in every service category.

The magistrates discussed raising the fees, with Magistrate Keith Metcalfe stating he did not support raising them at this time. The court took no vote, but will address the issue at an upcoming fiscal court meeting.

PLANNING COMMISSION FEES. Jan Johnston-Crowe, director of the city-county planning commission, told the court that the planning commission office will need additional revenue next fiscal year in order to complete a top-to-bottom review of the county’s comprehensive plan.

The last major review of the comprehensive plan was completed in 1999. It was updated in 2011, and another review began in 2016.

Crowe suggested the county have an outside firm perform the review. She can do the review, but doing so would interfere with the day-to-day duties she performs as planning director.

A major review of the comprehensive plan would include meetings with stakeholders and the public for their input.

In order to help defray the expenses of an outside contractor, Crowe suggested raising the planning commission fee schedule, which hasn’t had major changes since 2005. She gave examples of how the existing fee schedule doesn’t cover the office’s actual expenses for even a simple re-zoning request.

Nelson Fiscal Court will review the request to raise fees at its next meeting.

In other business, the court:

— approved second reading of the end-of-year budget amendment.

— heard that the state has asked county government to hire its own audit firm rather than depend on state auditors. Currently the county splits the cost of the auditors 50/50 with the state. If the county wishes to continue to use state auditors, the county’s share of those expenses will increase to 75 percent, Watts said.

— approved appointing Philip Gaffney to the County Board of Assessment Appeals.

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