A large crowd was on hand at today's fiscal court meeting as representatives from the Hellervik Oil Field Services in North Dakota addressed the court with the intentions of purchasing the Rocky Hill Natural Gas Processing Plant, currently owned by Atmos Energy. Residents from Rocky Hill also attended to voice their concerns and ask questions.
Mr. Gary Mennard, spokesman, presented the group's notions of the purchase with hopes of securing $3-4 million in bonds from the county. The bonding would come at no county risk, and the company wants the benefit of the many gas wells in Rocky Hill to remain in the county. The group said that natural gas is 50-60% cheaper than propane and electric heat.
Some Rocky Hill residents weren't too receptive with the presentation at first. There was a previous lawsuit between some land owners and Atmos Energy, with an original judgement in favor of the land owners in the amount of $30 million dollars, however, that decision was overturned on appeal which left landowners with nothing. There were several questions and concerns.
One resident stated, "I can't even sit on my front porch because of the noise of this plant when it's running." Magistrate Joe Durbin asked Mennard would county residents be hired or would the company look elsewhere? Mennard said that there would be some specialized jobs that would require experience and extensive training that would probably come from somewhere else, but that 20-25 quality paying jobs would be offered first to county residents.
Mennard also addressed the noise issue. He said there were already acoustic engineers looking at sound barriers to be constructed around the plant by way of trees, shrubbery, and even sound-deadening rock. Other representatives of the company suggested having community meetings to address other concerns, as they wanted residents to know that they feel there will be great benefit to the county once they purchase the plant.
Mennard also noted that running a main gas line to the Edmonson Industrial Park would attract businesses and other industry as natural gas is a much more effective way to heat industrial buildings than electricity. Judge Cannon noted that he was in the process of researching bonding procedure and the issue would be discussed at the next fiscal court meeting.
Back Payments of Unemployment Update:
Judge Cannon also updated the court on the ongoing issue with the county's back payments of unemployment insurance. As for now, it appears as though the county may have dodged a huge bullet. According to Cannon, the county's current insurance agency has requested documentation on how the payments are currently being made, and being that the documentation suffices, the county wouldn't have to pay the back payments, originally estimated at $8,000 to $12,000. This supposedly would allow a former county employee who has filed for unemployment as she wasn't re-hired in 2015, to draw her pay.
The court also read a statement from Lannie Deweese, School Transportation Director in regards to school bus access to Lauren Way, a private road that has requested to be adopted into the county road system. Deweese's statement said that there needed to be adjustments made to the entrance in order to secure bus safety. Magistrate Joe Durbin said he would discuss with the property owner and report later to the court.
County Road Foreman Ray Page reported that his department was glad to see that the snow was gone and that there had been many repairs and upkeep to county equipment since the brutal snowstorm. He requested authority to hire one full time seasonal employee and 2 part time employees for the upcoming mowing season. The court granted his request and the job description would be posted later.
County Extension Agent David Embry presented his office's budget proposal for the fiscal year which was increased $6800 from last year. The increase was due to office employees benefit expenses being higher this year. Embry said, "We'll work with however the court can work with us," as he thanked the court for hearing his proposal. The court needed more information on the benefit packages and wanted to discuss further after some research.
Little League Program Director:
Judge Cannon reported that there had been 5 good applicants for the new Little League Program Director, 3 of which were granted interviews. Upon the judge's recommendation, the court agreed to hire Greg Hudson, a current Baseball/Softball Board Member. We spoke with Director Hudson and will have a full story on this issue later.
Jailer Hank Vincent also presented his new budget, one that was over $32,000 higher than the previous year. Vincent said that the increase was due to a larger number of inmates as well as inmates' medical expenses, which the county is liable for while in custody. A resident asked Deputy Wally Ritter, "What are you guys doing to cause all these people to go to jail? He quickly responded, "Our job." The budget passed.
The County also renewed the contract with Leitchfield Exterminating for county offices and also agreed to begin the hiring process for 2-5 part time parks and rec concession workers at minimum wage and one overseer at $9/hr.
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