The Carter County Fiscal Court held a special session last week to discuss an amendment to the county's new occupational tax, but ended up focusing on road funding, the role of the census in determining that and other funding, and on the impact of Bellefonte closing shop.

Following a brief discussion of how content would be reorganized with the omission of a section of the ordinance establishing the tax, Judge Executive Mike Malone discussed an upcoming census informational meeting scheduled for Feb. 13.

Malone noted that it was estimated that only 18 percent of Carter County's residents responded to the last census, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost revenue on everything from state funding to federal dollars from organizations like FEMA when the county experiences an emergency.

At an estimated $2,000 per person in funding, Malone said, the money the county could qualify for with a complete count of its citizens could make a huge difference in the services the county could provide. That difference could especially be felt in the area of roads, which are in constant need of improvement in the county.

“We spent almost $1 million on paving last year, and it's almost like we didn't do anything,” Malone said.

He added that the county had received their road aid agreement in an email earlier that day. The amount of funding the county receives will be announced in a future meeting, he said, but with documentation of a larger population, the county might be able to qualify for even more money from the state.

The court also heard from E911 director Joe Lambert concerning a request to purchase a vehicle to serve as a Mobile Command Post for both the county Emergency Management Agency and the E911 department.

In cases such as a chemical spill, Lambert explained, when EM director Jeremy Rodgers and staff end up being on sight for 24 hours or more, it could give them a place to work from other than their trucks, and room to stretch out. In the case of an electrical failure or other activity shutting down the E911 building, he said, his department could use it to “be back up and running, dispatching, in no time.”

Lambert asked the county to approve the purchase of the vehicle, a Mercedes RV van, for $12,500, explaining that he has looked into grant opportunities to retrofit the vehicle for the county's needs. The court, however, worried that they didn't have the funds available to approve the purchase at this time.

“The bottom line is we just can't afford it,” said magistrate Donnie Openheimer, who agreed with other magistrates that the vehicle was needed.

In other action Malone addressed the impending closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte and the impact that would have on Bellefonte's clinics in the city. Malone suggested talking with providers working at those locations to see what, if anything, the county could do to support them during the transition. The court also adopted a resolution showing their support for the employees impacted and encouraging the hospital and clinics to stay open.

It wasn't just about the loss of employees in the county, though the closure of the clinics and the loss of those employees in the community would impact the new occupational tax. It was also about the loss of health care in the community, and what that would mean for citizens who would have to travel to Ashland, Morehead, or Huntington for care.

“We need the medical care more than we need the tax money,” Malone said.

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