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Levee commission asks county to help secure needed funds

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By Shannon Brock

Though no official action was taken, more than one-third of the Spencer County Fiscal Court’s Monday meeting was spent discussing the need for accreditation of the Taylorsville Levee and hearing comments from citizens on the issue.
The levee commission — commissioners Mike Driscoll, Bobby Smith and Joan Smith and treasurer Lois Platt — attended Monday’s meeting and Driscoll provided an update to the court.
Driscoll told court members about a meeting in Frankfort in August where commissioners asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for more time to complete the accreditation.
“They pretty plainly said no,” Driscoll said.
Following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA mandated that all flood walls and levees be recertified, or accredited. Taylorsville has known of the need for accreditation since at least 2008 and was to have had it completed in 2010, according to letters between FEMA and the City of Taylorsville.
Now, three years after that completion date and the accreditation process has yet to make any progress.
Driscoll said that, since last week’s Spencer Magnet article ran, the commission discovered it was “working under the wrong statute” and cannot raise its tax rate, or maintenance fee, to 15 cents per $100 of assessed value, but can only raise it by 10 percent of the $6,200 it could collect each year — with a 100 percent collection rate.
Driscoll said it was important to understand that the levee is in good condition.
“We don’t have a bad levee,” he told the court. “We have a safe levee.”
While Driscoll said the commission had been told it would take an estimated $200,000 for the accreditation process, recent conversations led him to believe it may be able to be done for considerably less.
Stacie Rockaway, a field representative for Congressman Thomas Massie, told the court that based on her discussions with Nathan Bryan of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the relatively small size of the levee may make the accreditation process less costly.
Driscoll told the court the levee commission will try to raise taxes as much as it legally can to have a revenue base with which to pay back the court, city or any other lending agency.
“I’d like to ask the court to help fund this and be paid back over a six-, eight-, 10-year period,” Driscoll said, adding that if any of the court members had a better idea, he and the commission were “all ears.”
“HUD [funding] takes a while, grants take a while — they take longer than we have to do this,” Driscoll said.
Based on that August meeting, FEMA will begin its remapping process in four to 16 months. If the remapping occurs before the Taylorsville levee is accredited, all property inside of the levee will be declared a flood zone, ultimately causing insurance rates to skyrocket and property values to plummet.
“You’ve got two choices,” Judge-Executive Bill Karrer said. “Either pay horrendous insurance premiums or raise the funds to get the flood wall recertified and move forward.”
Karrer said he had been in contact with the Kentucky Association of Counties to inquire about the possibility of the levee commission borrowing the funding, even if it were underwritten by the county or the city.
But to be able to borrow, the levee commission needs to show it has the income to pay back the loan, Karrer said.
“The flood commission needs to do everything it can to raise their tax rate as high as they possibly can,” Karrer said.
Perhaps if the funding is secured through a loan, a grant — which takes longer to receive — could be used to pay back the loan, Karrer said.
A couple of audience members raised their hands to speak on the levee issue, but Karrer said he wouldn’t open the floor for comments.
“I move we allow these people to speak,” Magistrate Hobert Judd said.
The motion was seconded by Magistrate Mike Moody and passed by a vote of 4-1 — Karrer voted no, and Magistrate Woodie Cheek was absent from the meeting.
At least four attendees addressed the court including City Commissioner Beverly Ingram who said perhaps the levee commission could look into a special option tax used specifically for this project, then taken away when it is finished.
“It seems to work in a lot of places,” Ingram said.
Spencer Countian Arnie Miller said he is new to the community, but spent many years along the Mississippi River in the property business. Miller said he was always advised that flood insurance only took care of the property owner’s mortgage — not necessarily building a new home.
“All you get is your note paid off,” he said.
Karrer said he would continue looking into borrowing from KACo and encouraged the levee commission to pursue all avenues it could to raise its tax.
The levee commission was on Tuesday night’s City Commission agenda to present its situation to the commission. That meeting took place after the Magnet’s press deadline and a story on it will appear in next week’s edition.

In other Fiscal Court business:
•The court approved an ambulance remount in the amount of $88,975.
•The court approved the cost of $2,071.80 to run phone lines and add five additional phones to the remodeled side of the EMS headquarters. The motion passed by a 4-1 margin with Moody voting no.
“We just spent a small fortune (remodeling the building), how come this wasn’t part of it?” Moody asked.
EMS Director Jeff Coulter explained that during the remodel, any phone jacks that may have been in place on that side of the building were taken out. “The walls that had jacks are no longer there,” he said.
•The court denied Sheriff Donald “Buddy” Stump’s request to purchase new carpet for the upstairs of his office. Until recently, the upstairs had been occupied by EMS. Stump explained that he was running out of room in the downstairs portion and needed to add an office, interview room and an office for the jailer upstairs.
Magistrate Jerry Davis questioned Stump’s decision to add an interview room upstairs, saying he didn’t think Stump wanted prisoners or suspects to go up and down the stairs.
“I don’t really want to,” Stump said. “But when you don’t have any space, you don’t have any space.”
However, the request for purchasing and installing carpet at a cost of $1,201.80 failed by a vote of 2-3. Magistrate Hobert Judd and Judge-Executive Bill Karrer voted in favor; magistrates Moody, Davis and Goodlett voted no.
•The carpet request sparked a separate conversation during the time allotted for approving bills. Listed on the bills list was a $677.39 reimbursement to Stump for ceiling tiles and paint.
Stump said those items were used in the upstairs of his office.
Davis asked why the carpet expense was brought before the court, but the expense of the ceiling tiles and paint was not.
“Why ask for carpet, but pay for paint?” Davis asked.
Karrer responded that the need for carpet came close to the time of a court meeting.
“When we got to the carpet, we were close to the Fiscal Court meeting, so we put it on there,” Karrer said.
Moody questioned why the ceiling tile and paint purchases — obviously over the $200 spending limit, he said — were determined to be something needed before the court meeting.
Stump said that the repairs and renovations of the upstairs are included in this fiscal year’s budget at an estimated cost of $4,500.
“That’s quite a bit of foresight,” Stump said. “Several months.”
“Just because it’s in the budget doesn’t mean its going to be there or need to be done when the time comes,” Davis said.
•Davis, as chair of the court’s spending ordinance committee, informed the court of the committee’s recommendation to include a spending limit of $750 (voted on at the last court meeting) as well as a stipulation that Karrer is to consult with a magistrate on expenditures each month on a rotating basis by magisterial district. A first reading of that ordinance is expected at the next court meeting on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
•The court voted to move its first November meeting from the scheduled date of Nov. 4 to Nov. 6. County Attorney Ruth Hollan has a mandatory conference on Nov. 4 and would not be available at the normal time. The Nov. 6 meeting will be at 9 a.m.