Nelson Fiscal Court adds evening meeting time; restores public comment period

Judge Executive Tim Hutchins and District 1 Magistrate Tim Hutchins talk during a break in Tuesday’s meeting of Nelson Fiscal Court.

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 — Nelson Fiscal Court voted Tuesday to hold its second monthly meeting at 6 p.m. The meeting time change required the court to revise its administrative code to put the new time in place.

The next meeting of fiscal court is 6 p.m. in the Bernard Ice Fiscal Courtroom on the second floor of the Old Courthouse.

The magistrates also unanimously approved changes to allow the return of public comment to the meeting agenda.

NEW VOTING MACHINES. The court reviewed a bid of $216,047 from HARP Enterprises for new voting machines.

The bid includes 26 new ballot scanners, 19 new standalone voting ADA-compliant voting machines as well as a workstation computer to tabulate the totals. According to a HARP representative, the new machines have an estimated usable life of 14 to 16 years.

The court approved the entire bid with the exception of a disposal fee for removing and disposing of the old voting machines.

Prior to the court’s approval, Nelson County resident Kevin Clements spoke in favor of the court moving the next election to hand-counted paper ballots. The move would insure local control of the election process, Clements said, and it would avoid letting a third-party possibly interfere with the results.

The HARP representative assured the court that their equipment cannot be hooked up to the internet, nor accessed via Bluetooth.

The court also approved a motion to purchase the electronic polling books, which replaced the paper poll ledgers some years ago. According to Nelson County Clerk Jeanette Sidebottom, the state will reimburse the county for the purchase of the new electronic polling books.

The deadline to upgrade the election machines and polling books is 2024, but Sidebottom said their existing machines needed replacement before the next election.

NEW HAVEN SEWER PROJECT REVISION. The court approved a request from the City of New Haven to repurpose some of the funds it recently received from Nelson County government.

New Haven is under an agreed order due to its sewer violations, and the city wants to use money it was provided for a new sewer discharge line to help improve the city’s sewer plant by adding additional aerators.

The bids for the project came in higher than expected, and the city wants to repurpose the discharge line funds to the earlier project. Former County Engineer Jim Lemieux spoke on behalf of the change, advising the court that the aerators will directly address the city’s agreed orders to improve the quality of its sewer discharge.

Magistrate MT Harned and Jailer Justin Hall speak prior to the start of Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting.

JAIL DISCUSSION. Jailer Justin Hall told the court he had selected a vendor who could provide a full body scanner for the jail that will fit in the jail with some modification to the intake area.

The court agreed to take up a vote to purchase a scanner at its next meeting.

Hall said he has sufficient money in the jail’s commissary fund to pay for the new equipment.

Magistrate Keith Metcalfe said constituents had asked him about the jailer having a “slush fund” of money. Hall said by state law, the commissary proceeds go for the improvement of the jail and programs for the health and safety of inmates.

Metcalfe said the commissary fund used to come to Nelson Fiscal Court, but now, the court no longer receives the money. It was disclosed that up until four years ago, fiscal court received nearly all the commissary proceeds, a move which is now a violation of state law.

SAVING MONEY. Hall said he had signed up with a new medical service provider for the jail that will save up to $12,055.36 per year.

The court approved Hall’s request to get bids on a contract to provide food service at the jail.

Hall noted he had contracted with Kellwell Commissary to operate the jail’s commissary. The move will free jail personnel from being involved in the process.

Magistrates Jon Snow, left, and Jeff Lear.

SALARY ISSUES. Low wages paid to Nelson County EMS and E-911 Dispatch are affecting both agencies’ ability to hire employees.

E-911 dispatchers start at $14.50 an hour, while dispatchers at most adjacent counties pay up to $2.75 more per hour.

Emergency Service Director Joe Prewitt noted that Nelson County EMS has six full-time positions open. They recently interviewed four applicants, and have hired three for part-time positions, he said. They have no other applicants for full-time positions, which he said was due to the low starting pay.

Anyone interested in applying for a position at Nelson County EMS can fill out the online job application on their website, www.NelsonCountyEMS.com.

In other business, the court:

— heard that the county’s bulky item pickup begins Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. No hazardous materials may be left for the pickup, according to County Engineer Brad Spalding.

Car batteries and tires should be grouped together. Household paints can only be accepted if mixed with kitty litter or sawdust and allowed to dry.

— heard a request to name the US 62 bridge over Withrow Creek for a World War II veteran PFC John W. “Hawk” Cissell, a county resident who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Cissell lived in the area beneath the bridge when he returned from the war. The court will address the request at a future meeting.

— heard a warning from the county clerk to be aware of that March is the clerk’s office’s busiest month for registration renewals. If you plan to come in to renew your tags in March, be prepared to wait in line, she advised.

— approved naming Jeff Lear the judge-executive pro-tem designee in the event the judge-executive is unable to lead a fiscal court meeting.

— approved creating a new bank account for the county’s portion of the opiod settlement funds.


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