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Fiscal court takes steps for non-taxing sewer district

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By Josh Shepherd, News writer

The Harrison County Fiscal Court took the first step in addressing the Cedarbrook sewer treatment mess by approving the first reading of an ordinance to create a Harrison County Sanitation District.

Harrison County Judge Executive Alex Barnett explained that the language in section 6 of the ordinance stated that the sanitation district would be “a non-taxing, special-purpose governmental entity.”

He also explained that nobody in the county was required to be a sanitation district customer. 

“It’s just like with the water district. Just because the water line is there, individuals don’t have to tap on it,” Barnett said. The primary purpose in establishing this special district is to address the lingering issues with the Cedarbrook treatment plant.

Several residents from the rural neighborhood attended the meeting with questions about the function of the sewer district and also asked about the possibility of extending sewer lines from Cedarbrook to the Cynthiana Wastewater Treatment Plant.

With regard to that option, while Barnett agreed that it appeared to be the best possible solution, the estimated price tag of over $3 million was just too high.

“The county is just not going to approve borrowing that much money. So we have to come up with another option,” Barnett said.

Provided that R.A. Williams is willing to relinquish its interest in the Cedarbrook plant to the sanitation district, the public organization  would be empowered to set monthly fees and enforce collection of those fees.

“It’s a lot easier for the water district to shut off services to help out another public entity than it is a private company.” Barnett  stated.

Creating a county-wide sewer district will also enable the county to deal with other problems that may crop up.

“Cedarbrook is not the only package wastewater treatment facility operating in the county. If problems occur, we’ll have an organization that can step in and help,” Barnett said.

Residents and other concerned parties expressed frustration that the R.A. Williams company is going to escape accountability for mismanagement of the facility that has led to the current situation.

Wayne Tolson, representing the interests of his son, Danny, said that “it seems like R.A. Williams is going to get off scot-free from this situation.”

After discussions concerning the sewer district proposal, the magistrates approved the first reading of the ordinance unanimously. The only vote not cast was from Magistrate Frank Henson who was unable to attend the meeting.

 

Magistrates table first reading vote on nuisance ordinance amendment

Magistrates tabled a vote on the first reading of an amendment to the county nuisance ordinance that would grant code enforcement powers to the Cynthiana - Harrison County - Berry Joint Planning Commission.

Bonnie Skinner, director of planning and community development, has been lobbying the Cynthiana City Commission and the Harrison County Fiscal Court to bring building inspections and code  enforcement under one umbrella.

The proposal, she said, would centralize building inspection and code enforcement for the city and county. It would reduce confusion  and introduce a more uniform and consistent enforcement of building codes. People would have only one place to go to address matters concerning building regulations and nuisance disputes.

In addition to granting the planning and zoning commission powers to enforce nuisance ordinances, Skinner also requested that the county transfer to the commission the money it has budgeted for nuisance enforcement, about $5,000, from the office of the Harrison County Solid Waste Coordinator.

Combined with the city’s code enforcement budget and the commission’s own resources, it would allow the planning and zoning office to hire a full time building inspector and code enforcement officer to serve the city and county.

Under the current ordinance, nuisance enforcement is part of the job description of the Harrison County Solid Waste Coordinator, a position held by Herb VonGruenigan.

Magistrate Jeff Brunker was concerned about higher budget requests each year to maintain the central office. However, Skinner said it’s more likely that the commission would reduce their annual budget requests.

“We would generate most of our revenues from inspection fees and fine collections,” Skinner commented.

Brunker and Magistrate Bradley Copes were also concerned about how this change would affect VonGruenigan’s office.

“In eight years, I’ve never had a complaint about nuisance enforcement in the county. Herb has done a good job,” Copes said.

Magistrate Larry Wells also had questions about the difference between Harrison County’s code enforcement organization and that of Bourbon County, where positions are only part time.

There were enough questions from magistrates going unanswered that Barnett suggested suspending a vote on the first reading until the next fiscal court meeting.

Magistrates agreed and the matter was set aside.

 

In other business:

• The magistrates approved releasing the $15,000  budgeted to support the Main Street Program for the new fiscal year.

Emily Ammerman, program director, was credited with saving the county about $90,000 on the courthouse renovation project. By making some alterations to the renovation project as suggested by the Kentucky Heritage Council for historic preservation, the county earned $130,000 in tax credits.

The county can sell these tax credits to banks for about 80-90 cents on the dollar.

•Heard the retirement letter from Sheriff Bruce Hampton.

• In the roads committee report, Magistrate Bradley Marshall said a recently purchased used bucket truck would be in use by Aug. 1.

 • In the report on the Flora Shropshire Animal Shelter, Brunker said that cat adoptions are only $5 in July.