Members of the Harlan County Fiscal Court met in a special called meeting on Tuesday and agreed sharp spending cuts will have to be imposed as a result of proposed cuts in coal severance funds for the upcoming year.
Figuring out what to do is proving difficult, causing magistrates and the county judge-executive’s office to look for more ways to cut spending in every district.
After rescinding a recent motion made during a fiscal court meeting, which limited spending to $5,000 and under unless approved by the court, Magistrate David Kennedy said this action was affecting day-to-day operations of the county.
“We were trying to control some of the spending and we ended up setting a level, which appears to be so low it interferes with purchasing food at the jail, fuels and gravel,” said Grieshop. “We need to change this motion, which limits spending to under $5,000.”
Kennedy, after looking at “the whole scenario on setting limits,” said he personally felt things such as gravel, fuel and services at the jail don’t need to be approved by fiscal court.
“This other stuff, like contract services and things out of the ordinary other than our run-of-the-mill bills, we have to find a way to separate that,” said Kennedy.
Asking that spending limits be set for special projects instead of day-to-day operations, Magistrate Bill Moore said he felt this would help the county run more smoothly.
Magistrate Jim Roddy added he is in favor of cutting spending throughout the county with equal cuts in every district. However, Roddy said he feels day-to-day spending needs to be addressed by Grieshop’s office and not the court.
“I think we all need to agree and all these department heads, along with the judge, need to agree to cut back and we all actually do this — looking at each individual district to come up with ways to make cuts,” said Kennedy. “When someone wants gravel, culverts or sand, we need to say no we can’t do this. Look at the parks — our light bills. Let’s all come up with cuts.”
Grieshop said he wants the county to run smoothly, but agreed to watch his spending.
“Judge, you’re the sole person that can take and approve these purchases anyway,” said Kennedy. “You know, if we question your judgment as our judge, we wouldn’t have to do anything on this. I trust your judgment, but I’m trying to put a spending limit to keep the monkey off your back. I know all these contractors are driving you crazy.”
Grieshop said if the court doesn’t begin watching the spending, the county will have “issues coming up in the future.”
“We know for sure coal severance is going down and the county goes the way coal goes,” said Grieshop. “There will be reductions and we will have to make adjustments. I just want to work smarter with our budget and make sure we don’t go out here and have spending sprees that aren’t necessary.”
Roddy suggested putting a cap on spending for each magisterial district, keeping a list of what is being spent and presenting that list to the court each month.
Harlan County Roads Supervisor Marvin Goins agreed with Roddy, saying he has already initiated a computer program which will show what is being spent in each district each month in regard to the road department. He said a copy of this report will be made available to each magistrate every month henceforth.
Kennedy commended Goins for his efforts, adding he feels this will help in cutting costs.
Harlan County Solid Waste Supervisor Lakis Mavinidis suggested keeping county trash trailers in communities until they are completely filled, instead of taking small loads to the landfill as a cost cutting effort. He also suggested sorting trash for recyclable items before dumping loads at the landfill, as a way of saving the county money.
“If we could organize this and pick up garbage in communities on the same day instead of going several times to one community, it will save a lot of money in several ways,” said Mavinidis.
Roddy then suggested using inmate labor to sort the garbage each day, saying this could save the county even more money. He said a concrete pad could be laid at the landfill with a cover and inmates could be stationed there to sort as loads come in.
“We’ve all got to take this stuff seriously,” said Kennedy. “I’m learning to say no all the time now. I don’t want to say no, but I have to.”
In other court action, three bills were submitted from Cornett Electronics, of Cumberland, for equipment needed to fully equip two vehicles for the sheriff’s office and purchase a radio repeater for county trucks. The repeater is located on Pine Mountain. It was noted these bills were incurred prior to the spending limit motion.
Roddy asked if Cornett Electronics was the only business doing this type of work in the county. He suggested checking other businesses for a lower cost as a way of cutting spending.
“It’s going to be about the same price everywhere you go,” said Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird. “I went with them because they are local and I’d much rather do local. They have worked on police cars since the 1950s.”
Grieshop said he is also for using local businesses, but hopes they are not “gouging the county.” He noted this occurs sometimes.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com