City says no to county offer

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Council members express concern about loss of jobs.

By James Roberts

Campbellsville City Council members have rejected magistrates' offer to take over Rescue or E-911 services, a move that leaves discussions open.

The Council's action took place at a special meeting Thursday night. The vote was 9-3 with Councilmen Mike Hall Jr., Jimmy Ewing and Greg Rice voting no.

In making his motion to not transfer Rescue or E-911 to the county, Councilman Terry Keltner said the door is still open for negotiations. However, he said if no agreement is reached as of July 1, the city will no longer provide Rescue services outside the city limits.

City Attorney John Miller said that he believes that the city cannot spend city tax dollars on services outside the city limits without a county contribution.

Ewing said he can't support the motion because he believes it would eventually lead to reducing Rescue and cutting staff. Hall said he is also concerned about job losses. Rice said he favors combining the two agencies, establishing a board to oversee them and having the city and county each contribute funds.

The vote came after the Council discussed the issue and the county's offer for just more than an hour. None of the magistrates or Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers attended the meeting.

Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young said he believes the Fiscal Court's motion asking the council to transfer either entity to the county is a "good faith motion."

Young said the issue has been the concern of four mayors and judge/executives and must be settled once and for all.

Councilman David Nunery said he is "flat opposed to transferring either."

The real problem, Nunery said, is having two governments in Taylor County. Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Vangie Ford agreed with Nunery.

Nunery said he is also curious if the city does transfer one of the agencies, whether the county will ask for a city contribution to run it.

Keltner said he, too, opposes transferring control of either agency to the county. There are grants, loans and contracts tied to the city, which would complicate any transfer of control.

Hall said that the Council must keep in mind that there are a lot of jobs at stake. He said he wonders if the county would maintain Rescue as it is or be forced to make cuts. Any significant budget cuts would likely come from personnel.

"I would like to protect these folks' jobs," Hall said.

Councilman Randy Herron said that magistrates have told him that they want to cut Rescue's budget by $200,000.

Councilman Stan McKinney asked Rescue Director Allen Bottoms if $200,000 could be cut from Rescue's budget without impacting services.

"Not as I see it," Bottoms said.

McKinney asked Miller if the city could legally provide a countywide service without assistance from county government.

"As a general proposition, the city cannot provide services outside the limits without compensation," Miller said, adding that he doesn't believe the county operating a jail that houses city prisoners is adequate compensation.

Councilwoman Patti Phillips said allowing the county to take over Rescue would be irresponsible.

"They've mismanaged [the occupational tax]," she said, adding that the county could mismanage Rescue as well.

Keltner said that maybe now is the time to sever ties with the county and allow each to operate its own services. If the city is unable to operate both Rescue and E-911 at current levels, he said, E-911 could be turned over to the State Police post in Columbia.

Currently, various State Police posts provide 911 and dispatching services for several counties, including Pike, Grant and Henry, according to Seth Hawthorne, KSP central area supervisor for communications.

KSP Post 15 Dispatcher Derek Coffey said the city or county would pay a one-time equipment fee and then provide annual pay for the additional personnel.

McKinney said he doesn't understand why the county would rather operate Rescue on its own rather than continue to pay the city $650,000 to operate it and E-911.

"Do you see any of the six of them here to answer your questions?" Ewing asked.

"I think they closed the door Tuesday night," Keltner responded.

Herron said that his discussions with magistrates have led him to believe that they don't mind sharing services, but they will not share funding.

Ewing proposed that the city transfer control of Rescue to the county if the county would establish a taxing district. Under his proposal, he said a five-member board could be established and that the city would appoint three of those members. A transition period would run from July to December and then, on Jan. 1, the transfer would take place.

Ewing also proposed that the city and county each reduce their occupational tax by $350,000 to offset the Rescue tax.

Young said that means the city would take over one entity in its entirety, while, in effect, paying the county a $350,000 contribution by lowering the occupational tax. Adding that to the E-911 deficit would create an $863,000 deficit, he said.

No action was taken on Ewing's proposal.

Ford said that though she isn't in favor of transferring either agency to the county, some agreement must be reached.

"I think everybody in the county should have the right to participate in the high class services we have," she said.

These discussions, Ford said, put the staff of Rescue and E-911 in an uncomfortable position, waiting to see what their fate may be. That could easily affect service, she said.

Keltner then made his motion to reject the county's offer. McKinney seconded the motion.

After further discussion, Young invited members of the audience to share their ideas.

Former councilman Jerry Kibbons said the county should be providing all countywide services and doing so happily.

Former councilwoman Sue Smith said the county claims it doesn't have enough money for blacktop. If that's the case, she said, she doesn't see how it could afford to run Rescue. Smith said she believes the county would simply sell Rescue to a private entity.

Keltner eventually withdrew his original motion and made a new one to reject the county's offer but leave negotiations open. McKinney also seconded that motion.

Rogers was unavailable for comment as of press time.

The next joint meeting of council members and magistrates is tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Rescue headquarters. The meeting is open to the public.


Also at the meeting:

The Council had first reading of a flood damage prevention ordinance. The ordinance requires a permit before any type of work can take place on property in a flood plain and imposes a $10 per day fine for those who fail to do so.