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Magistrates seek answers only to find that they are to blame

CHAD HOBBS

Editorial


 Last week’s paper gave a prelude to me “telling” you about the consequences of what would happen if you no longer had a local newspaper. As fate would have it, our local government has once again offered up a more provocative “showing” of those consequences than a “telling” by me.

 For much of last week’s almost two hour long Fiscal Court meeting, the mundane ruled the night. Though essential, regular business such as “the Solid Waste Director wants to retire next April so lets hire an interim Director to learn under him before he leaves” type business ruled the night. Well, that was until an add-on in the closing minutes of the meeting by Judge/executive Leslie Stith.

 Stith gave the court an update on the city of Brandenburg’s new wastewater treatment plant that is being built. He pointed out that the money being received from the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) from Nucor was not covering the county’s obligation by the prior administration to pay for their half of the wastewater treatment plant. In fact, the Meade County Fiscal Court is subsidizing that shortfall to the tune of $120,000 a year.

 Magistrate and former banker Gary Chapman struggled to understand how this could be. County Treasurer Tammy Graham attempted to explain that Nucor pays the county $325,000 through the PILOT agreement each year. The Meade County School District gets $75,000 of that money. Another $93,000 goes towards the insurance premium tax for the bond. Graham said that only leaves $157,000 to go towards the sewer treatment plant, meaning the county is having to subsidize $120,000 to get the $277,000 owed to the city for the treatment plant each year.

 Chapman, still not satisfied, said, “I guess I don’t understand how did that happen?”

 Stith replied, “It was a resolution passed by the court before me.”

 Chapman said, “No, I mean how did we come up short?”

Graham replied, “I don’t know how we could have known in 2019 when we did this how much the wastewater treatment plant was going to cost then.”

 Chapman said, “But $100,000 a year for 20 years…”

 Stith cut in saying, “is $2.4 million.”

 Stith then added that the city has done four change orders to the project, raising the price tag an additional $275,000. It appears the county will have to also pay half of this also, according to the inter-local agreement that was unanimously passed by the former Judge/executive Gerry Lynn and the magistrates.

 This further upset Magistrate Chapman, leading him to ask, “So the ordinance says we will pay half of an unknown number?”

 County Attorney Jessica Roberts answered, “The inter-local agreement agrees for us to pay half.”

 To which, Chapman rhetorically questioned, “Of a number we don’t know?”