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Fiscal court approves ‘heroes pay’

SALYERSVILLE – The Magoffin County Fiscal Court met in regular session on Tuesday, October 19, discussing mail delivery, county employee “hero pay” and vaccine incentives, and a recent racial slur used by a city councilman during a city council meeting earlier this week.

During departmental reports, Magoffin County Deputy Judge Kevin Howard updated the fiscal court on several ongoing projects. At Bloomington Park Howard said they are still waiting on a purchase agreement, but the electric pole and meter box has been installed and they are waiting on AEP to hook it up. At Battlefield Park, he said Foothills has set a pole and ran the line to install internet so they can have WiFi for the security cameras. On road resurfacing projects, Howard said Hinkle told him the ongoing projects are scheduled to be completed this week, which includes the sections of Sandbottom.

Under bridge replacements, Howard said the Little Bear and Blanton Branch box culverts have been installed. The Charles Bailey and Jerry Rice Lane box culverts are being constructed, but have not been installed at this time. Howard also noted they are delayed on two more box culverts, explaining they won’t be able to get the aluminum to complete the construction until December as it stands currently.

At the county garage, he said they have everything else in place required for security cameras, with the final installation schedule for Friday.

Howard also said there are two veterans’ ceremonies scheduled for October 30, one of Virgil Allen and one for William Preston. The ceremony honoring Virgil Allen with be at the bridge on Trace Branch at 10 a.m., and the ceremony honoring William Preston will be on the Mountain Parkway at Short Fork at 11:30 a.m.

During new business, Magoffin County Judge/Executive Matt Wireman explained the local extension office acted in good faith to set taxes to increase revenue per their guidance from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, but under new law Wireman said that is over the 4% threshold that would require a public meeting. Wireman said he has been in contact with legislators to explain how the new law can be manipulated, with hopes of more legislation to clarify these rules. Though they were one of the first fiscal courts to challenge and override a taxing district’s rates, he said they were told to back off, meaning the rate the local extension board set will stand. Wireman explained that on tax bills this year people should see a slight reduction on their real property taxes (unless their assessment increased) in all categories except on extension services, which will be up slightly.

Magoffin County Court Clerk Renee Shepherd also reminded the public to check their addresses through the PVA office to make sure they will be able to receive their bills through the US Postal Service, which has tightened up their rules concerning forwarding mail.

The fiscal court acknowledged the taxing districts’ tax rates so the tax bills can be generated and mailed soon.

They also acknowledged the sheriff’s 2017/2018 excess fees, with Magoffin County Sheriff Department Office Manager Melodye Stephens presenting the report per the auditor’s instructions, with excess fees of over $24,000 for the two years combined. She also explained that she has been busy cleaning out old accounts – 19 accounts, to be exact – with a total of $78,239.52, which combined with the excess fees from 2017 and 2018 adds up to over $100,000 turned over to the county. Stephens asked the court if they would be able to have some of that money back, noting two cruisers that are in bad shape, becoming hard to maintain. Wireman asked the sheriff department to search around for what is available and prices and said they will look at the potential of helping with those costs at the next fiscal court meeting. He explained they couldn’t just turn the money back over, legally, but they will do what they can to help, noting they understand the importance of having safe vehicles for the officers.

Regarding the Magoffin County Animal Shelter, Wireman reminded the public that they are in the business of catching strays, per the Kentucky statutes, noting they do not have the capacity for owner surrenders. He said if they get to availability of space capacity to take surrenders, they need to at least have some type of fee structure in place. He explained that this is not a money-making venture, but Pike County spends half a million dollars each year on their shelter, but Magoffin County cannot afford to do that. Per Wireman’s proposal, the court agreed to set a $10 per animal surrender fee for when they have the capacity available to take those animals.

The court approved a resolution authorizing premium pay to full and part-time essential workers employed as of September 1, 2021, and still employed as of October 19, 2021, using federal pandemic funds to provide “hero pay” of $13 per hour (hours worked during that time period) up to $1,000 to the county employees who qualify. The premium pay is in addition to the employees’ regular pay and is covered by funds dispersed via the American Rescue Plan Act. Employees of the Magoffin County Fiscal Court staff, county attorney, county clerk, jailer, sheriff, PVA, circuit clerk, justice center and Commonwealth attorney, with the exclusion of elected officials and office holders.

They also approved county employee vaccine incentives, which are also covered by the American Rescue Plan Act and include the same employees listed in the previous paragraph. All eligible workers employed as of December 15 who provide proof of being fully vaccinated will receive an additional $200.

Under communications, Wireman also addressed an issue in the community that is being addressed by the mayor. Per Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd’s request, Wireman read Shepherd’s statement regarding a racial slur that was said during Monday’s Salyersville City Council meeting, as well as read a prepared statement by Wireman for the fiscal court, also denouncing the use of the phrasing.

From Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd:
“The past 10 years as your Mayor I have worked diligently to make Salyersville a better place for all of our citizens. A place we could be proud of and one that visitors who come here will feel welcome and enjoy the beauty of our city. I have always had great support from you and the city councils that have served with me.

“We are continuously working to obtain grants and loans for numerous projects. Obtaining this financial aid depends a lot on the perception the leaders at the state and federal levels have of our local elected officials.

“At last night’s city council meeting a comment was made by a city council member that could put a lot of our efforts in jeopardy. The statement was racist in nature. Myself and the other five council members were shocked and wish to say we do not and will not condone in any shape, form, or fashion the comment that was made. Thank you, Mayor James Pete Shepherd”

Wireman also read this statement for himself and the Magoffin County Fiscal Court:
“As many of you are now aware a racial slur was made by a city council member at the October 18, 2021, Salyersville City Council Meeting. First and foremost, let me say as a caring human being and as your County Judge/Executive, I on behalf of the Magoffin County Fiscal Court and the Citizens of Magoffin County, want it known that we are a welcoming, inclusive, and loving community and this city council member does not in any manner, speak for the judge/executive, the fiscal court or our fine citizens. In addition, the Magoffin County Fiscal Court, the citizens of Magoffin County and I, without hesitation, adamantly condemn the comments made by this city council member.”

Wireman also noted that he met with an engineering firm this week regarding improvements to be made at the park. He said they are putting a draft drawing together, which he hopes to have by the November meeting. He said they are looking at lights for the little league field, basketball courts, renovating two of the tennis courts, and taking the other section for a shelter. He said they are also looking at putting in a batting cage in what used to be the outfield of the high school field. He said the little league has raised approximately $15,000 to help contribute to that project.

Wireman said he also has the engineering firm drawing up plans for ADA-compliant sidewalks to the playground, in addition to getting some equipment that will help accommodate kids with special needs.

At the Half Mountain Park, Wireman said he also had them look at possible locations for a stage, which would serve multiple purposes for community events.

He said for the Bloomington Park he is having the engineering firm to draft plans for an expanded, ADA-compliant bathrooms. Wireman noted they have preliminary plans for a more barebones construction for bathrooms at the park, but he wants to know their options for having a better facility there.

Wireman said he hopes all these plans will be ready for review by next meeting so they will be able to get approval through the state to use coal severance funding for these projects. If they can get everything approved by early spring, they will be set to bid out the projects then and start the improvement projects.

Regarding the postal service, Wireman also said there are several roads in the county the post office now refuses to travel. He said he’s had several community members call his office about this in the past six to eight weeks and he has met with both of our U.S. senators and Congressman Rogers on the issue. He said they have filed complaints on the issue and Hal Rogers’ office has told him it went through a complete hearing process all the way to Louisville, and Louisville upheld what they did locally.

“So, they’ve been going up there since horse and buggy days with the mail, but now they can’t drive cars up and down our roads,” Wireman said. “It doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s the world we live in.”

Wireman said they’ve had an easement drawn up so they can put a community box at the end of Long Creek, but noted that is still a big inconvenience to those residents who are forced to either do that or get a post office box.

“I’ve exhausted my resources and I have nowhere else to go,” Wireman said.

The court also approved the fund transfers of $35,000 from the general fund to the jail fund and $20,000 from the general fund to the LGEA fund.

The Magoffin County Fiscal Court’s next regular meeting is tentatively slated for November 16 at 6 p.m. at the Magoffin County Courthouse Albert Patrick Building.

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