County talks cleanup after flooding and winter storms

Janie Slaven, Commonwealth Journal, Somerset, Ky.
·6 min read

Mar. 25—In a rather routine meeting of Pulaski County Fiscal Court, county officials spent much of the open portion discussing cleanup efforts following last month's severe weather.

The discussion began during the Road Department report, when Judge-Executive Steve Kelley updated magistrates on road repairs following February's winter storms and flooding.

"Repairs are coming along," the judge said. "We are making progress. There was significant damage ...throughout the county, and we're still discovering damage."

Kelley gave the example of District 4 Magistrate Mark Ranshaw locating a damaged bridge in his district just this past Monday. The judge went on to say that the immediate goal was to make everything passable and safe as possible.

"Right around the corner is mowing season," Judge Kelley continued. "We're going to be all hands on deck trying to keep our right-of-ways mowed. Our road department is doing a good job; it's just that it takes a while to get everything cleaned back up to normal condition."

Magistrate Ranshaw urged citizens who had suffered damage to report it to the county's EOC (emergency operations center). Judge Kelley added that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is requiring for property assistance 25 homes that suffered at least 40 percent structural damage.

"What we're seeing," Judge Kelley continued, "is that most of what happened here is not structural damage. It's personal property damage, cleanup and ruined carpet, but not structural damage. Until we cross that threshold, FEMA is not getting involved to come down here and do inspections."

The judge went on to say that there are differences between FEMA assisting property owners as opposed to government entities. In the county's case, Kelley explained, there is a local state of emergency declaration so that Pulaski's damages can be included among the collective damage reported to FEMA by the state.

"We're gathering all the information we can," Judge Kelley said. "We're doing the best we can to try to get funding for this [infrastructure repair]."

Discussion later moved to a different kind of cleanup, though still somewhat related to the severe weather. As Jailer Anthony McCollum completed his departmental report, Judge Kelley commended his crews for their litter abatement efforts.

"Although it's helpful, I'd like to get the public a little caring in not throwing trash out to begin with," the judge added. "But we do appreciate your willingness to help clean up what our people are throwing out."

McCollum noted that the jail has stepped up its efforts since the recent flooding seemed to wash up more litter. He added they have a goal to hit the county's "main areas" before tourist season starts. "Then we'll start branching out to the secondary roads," he said.

The exchange prompted Magistrate Ranshaw to say he'd taken a lot of calls about the trash issue.

"There's so much trash out there and so much disregard...," he said. "I think we need to look at maybe expanding the fines and trying to figure out a better enforcement policy."

While Ranshaw opined the current $500 fine isn't enough to deter people from littering, Judge Kelley argued that the problem is more about enforcement.

"If people actually had to pay the $500 fine, it might deter them," Kelley said, "but catching them, prosecuting them, and getting a conviction is a difficult thing to do."

Ranshaw suggested authorizing the county's recycling coordinator to write tickets. While that's an option, County Attorney Martin Hatfield explained that the difficulty comes in proving littering cases.

"You never have any direct evidence of who's doing it and there's usually numerous people dumping things," Hatfield said, "unless you put cameras out or something of that nature to catch people....

"We've never not prosecuted someone if we have direct evidence of who committed the crime," he continued. "Just having a magazine with somebody's name on it typically is not going to be sufficient for conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. We'll prosecute the cases if we've got evidence that leads us to believe that we have a prosecutable case."

Judge Kelley took the opportunity to urge citizens to become involved in the upcoming Somerset-Pulaski County Clean Sweep on April 22, Earth Day. "Hopefully we'll just regain a sense of pride in our community and not throw it out in the first place," he said.

In other business, Fiscal Court:

—approved a resolution and agreement for County Emergency Road Aid from the state transportation cabinet. Judge Kelley explained that the county had received state emergency funds nearly five years ago to address a slide on Rock Lick Road. For the 80-20 project, the state now contends that they overpaid the county by $44,000 — with the county now going through receipts in order to clear up the matter. However, in order to received their current $1.8 million County Emergency Road Aid, the court first needed to make good on the $44,000.

"We do anticipate being able to find [the receipts]," Judge Kelley said. "It's just all boxed up in files, in the vault, and it just takes time to go through everything and find the receipts and canceled checks."

—approved Jailer Anthony McCollum's request to advertise for equipment shed bids.

"We have quite a bit of equipment that sits out in the weather," Jailer McCollum said, noting that some was damaged in the ice storm. "[The cost] will be taken from the Commissary [Fund] at no cost to the court, but we need permission to bid and have one built."

The jailer also submitted his proposed 2021-22 budget, unchanged from last year at $4,422,635.

—accepted for review a sole bid from Ridgenet for 911 radio consoles in the amount of $93,471.13 plus a monthly maintenance fee of $375. Deputy Judge-Executive Dan Price, Emergency Management/911 Director Aaron Ross and IT Tech Jason Hancock were named to a committee to review the bid.

—approved a resolution for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant application for FEMA. Judge Kelley noted that Rick Haynes has been trying to get the fire recruitment and retention grant on behalf of the Pulaski Fire Commission for a couple of years.

—announced the transfer of Nate Boyd from the Road Department to the Animal Shelter as Animal Control Officer. Judge Kelley also noted that there is no plan to fill the vacant shelter office manager position, rather those duties will be absorbed into current county personnel.

—authorized advertisement for the KACo (Kentucky Association of Counties) reverse salt auction.

—approved two fund transfers of $100,000 each from the Grant Fund into the Road Fund and 911 Fund.

—closed the meeting with an hour-and-20-minute executive session to discuss a potential property deal. No action was taken during the closed discussion, Judge Kelley announced, and court adjourned upon returning to open session.