Carter County Fiscal Court met in special session last Friday to amend a loan resolution before discussing road issues with representatives of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The court moved during the special session to transfer money from the General Fund to the Road Department to meet payroll while they wait for money stalled by the federal government shutdown to filter down to the county.

Some of the money that was released to the state by FEMA prior to the federal shutdown has finally been released by Frankfort for reimbursement on the Mallard Lane project. Because of this, and differences in the money taken in by the jail with a recent phone contract change, the court moved to approve a budget amendment to reflect these differences.

The court also moved to amend a resolution passed last week authorizing the county to borrow money from the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO) to reflect a difference in the interest rate.

When the court approved the loan last week, Judge Executive Mike Malone had communicated that the interest rate on the short term loan was 2.9%. That rate, however, is for long term loans. For short term loans, such as the one fiscal court agreed on, the interest rate is two points higher, at 4.95%.

Malone told the court that if the loan was repaid in two months, as expected, the county will pay approximately $900 in fees on the $100,000 loan. The court voted unanimously to approve the amendment to the resolution.

Following the special session, the court met with representatives of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC), along with state senator Robin Webb and state representative Kathy Hinkle, both of whom serve on the transportation board.

Gray Tomlin, with KTC, explained the role of KTC in maintaining state routes and in helping counties with transportation infrastructure needs to support economic development. Tomlin discussed the Bridging Kentucky plan, noting that they will be focusing on at least four bridges in Carter County, with the possibility of adding more to the list.

Tomlin also answered questions from Malone about roads that were taken into the system a decade ago, noting that he has found minutes to suggest that the county took in '85 miles in one night.'

Malone said he didn't understand why the roads were taken in at that time, stating, 'If we can't take care of the ones we've got, it seems like lunacy to take in more.'

Tomlin and other KTC representatives at the meeting suggested that Malone look at when they were taken in, and see if the process was done properly, and if the mileages have been recorded and accepted by the state. If not, then the county might not be responsible for maintaining those roads.

Malone said that he and his staff have 'spent hours' going over old minutes and have 'found many roads that were taken in and never turned in (to the state).'

New magistrate Morris Shearer, from the second district, asked about the $80,000 limit on bridge repairs for the county. That amount, he noted, was unfair to counties like Carter County that have a larger number of bridges than counties in the western half of the state. He asked what would happen to Carter County if they had multiple bridges damaged, and was told by KTC that there are emergency funds available for situations such as the one he described.

The court also asked about the legality of taking roads that had been blacktopped in the past, but were now in extreme disrepair, and returning them to a gravel surface. He asked if the state would have a problem with that, noting that some of the roads had not been blacktopped properly and should have never been paved in the first place. While any decision to return a blacktopped road to gravel would likely prove controversial with residents along the road – Malone noted that about half the folks along the road would support it while half would want it fixed with blacktop – KTC told Malone that the county would 'have latitude in maintaining roads as best as you can,' noting that the county would be 'well within rights' to turn those roads back to gravel and create a solid base for any future asphalt projects.

The county also asked about getting road employees certified to do soil sampling tests for projects like the claycrete trial the county is participating in, as well as the gasoline tax.

The county would like to see the gasoline tax return as a means of funding roads, but Webb, who said she was on the last group to consider the tax, said she 'doesn't know if the political will is there or not' to bring that tax back. She said that rural counties like Carter need to be active and aware in keeping any future tax system fair for rural counties, as the state shifts from a majority of people in rural areas to a more urban state. She said that she 'would welcome any input from the counties' as they move forward in that tax process.

KTC also took questions from the audience about issue like the maintenance of right-of-ways where county roads join state routes and issues with road widening and traffic around East Carter High School.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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