Darren Doyle, story and photo:
The Edmonson County fiscal court voted to purchase 12 acres in the county in the amount of $105,000 at the September 23, 2019 fiscal court meeting, in open session. Neither the location of the property nor the owner were disclosed at the time of the vote due to what Judge Executive Wil Cannon said could be a danger to the negotiations with the land owner. Those negotiations were held in closed session.
The vote passed for the purchase and according to the discussion in fiscal court that day, the purpose of the land was not only for a possible future site of a county animal shelter, but also for other county use that might include the road department and the sheriff's office. The Edmonson Voice first reported the purchase, along with all details available to the public at that time.
An overall negative reaction was received from the article about the vote to purchase the property for a number of reasons; some of which Judge Cannon has discussed with us since our initial story.
We sat down with Judge Cannon today in his office, discussed the public reaction, and asked him direct questions about the fiscal court's vote to purchase the property. We've outlined each concern and have provided Judge Cannon's response, in addition to information from our own research.
Judge Cannon confirmed today that the property is located at 3020 Veteran's Memorial Highway on 259, on the south side of Brownsville near the fairgrounds. Cannon also confirmed the property was purchased from owner Rollin Rountree.
"We don't do business in fiscal court to hide things, period," said Cannon. "Nearly everything that's discussed for county government is done in open session, but the law permits us to conduct some business in closed session, and for good reason. Since I've been Judge Executive, we've gone into closed session for personnel issues, litigation, and this property purchase. Pretty much everything else we've ever discussed has been in the open."
Cannon referred us to state law, KRS 61.810, section 1, item b:
"All meetings of a quorum of the members of any public agency at which any public business is discussed or at which any action is taken by the agency, shall be public meetings, open to the public at all times, except for the following: (a) Deliberations for decisions of the Kentucky Parole Board; (b) Deliberations on the future acquisition or sale of real property by a public agency, but only when publicity would be likely to affect the value of a specific piece of property to be acquired for public use or sold by a public agency;
Cannon said the court and the county attorney felt if the discussions of the land were made public, the negotiations would've immediately become more complicated. He said all negotiations were done with the best interest of the taxpayer dollars. The vote was not done in closed session, but in the open, as we originally reported.
Cannon said once the county discovered that the land would be for sale, Cannon felt like it met the criteria for needed county property for the following reasons:
a. It was centrally located in the county
b. It had good accessibility to a main roadway
c. It was large enough to accommodate other county offices and needs, not just for a shelter
d. It was a large enough area that its use could be utilized away from homes
With all the main criteria being met, Cannon said the county requested an appraisal on the 12 acre property, which was assessed at $120,000--$15k more than the selling price.
"I don't really know why people think the price was outrageous," said Cannon. "Sure, I was hoping the county could get it for less, but with everything I felt that was needed in a piece of property, this certainly had it. Contractors everywhere are searching for these types of properties all the time and I felt like this was a good investment."
We contacted Edmonson County Property Value Administrator Kyle White and asked for recent examples of sold property in the area. White provided us with 8 examples of property recently sold within a 5 mile radius of the purchased property over the past 18 months, which resulted in three Veteran's Memorial HWY property:
When averaged, the 8 properties sold for a combined total of $10,157.91 per acre. The county purchased the 12 acre property for $8750 per acre, $1407.91 less than the average.
Cannon said this simply isn't true. He said the county government does not own property on 31W, but that the Edmonson County Industrial Authority owns property there, and they are not affiliated with the county government. Furthermore, Cannon said the IA property can only be used for limited industrial use, not for the purposes the county needs.
Judge Cannon said the 12 acres can serve many purposes, the first of course, would be for an animal shelter.
"I don't want the county to purchase 2 acres and have an animal shelter within rock-throwing distance of somebody's house," he said. "We want an area large enough that we can build a shelter and have it separated as much as we can from homes, but again, it needs to be centrally located and access to a main road."
Cannon also said that the road department is going to fund part of the purchase, as they plan to use it as well.
"Our road department is out of room where they are now," he said. "They need a bigger area to store equipment and this will also allow them to be able to create storage for rock and other material needed for our roads. They can't do that where they are now. Our sheriff's office is also out of room. They're piled up on top of each other now and they don't even have enough room to park their own patrol vehicles. Our parks and rec can also use this property. There is a 30 x 40 metal building that we can use to store equipment and other needs of parks and rec. It's property that can be used for so many things that will help Edmonson County."
Judge Cannon also noted that as they way things are now, no money will have to be borrowed for the purchase and county taxes will not be raised in order to pay for it.
"Once we paid off the new county emergency radio system, we started budgeting for a land purchase for an animal shelter," he said. "The law requires us to house animals and we ended our contract locally with the only shelter we had in June of 2016. Everybody knows what kind of mess that was. Thankfully, the Bowling Green/Warren County Animal Shelter agreed to take our animals on a 5-year contract. They didn't have to, but they did. It's up to the county to figure out a way to provide our own shelter once this contract ends and that's what we've been working toward. I know there are people concerned about how it's going to go, and I completely understand that, but the fact is, we have to have our own shelter and we have to figure out a way to do it that works best for everyone in the county, and I feel this property is a start. Our magistrates voted unanimously on this, it's a court decision, not just mine. I don't rule the county. I try to make decisions in the best interest of the county taxpayer and bring those items before our magistrates."
Cannon also said that he felt like a three-year period is feasible to build a shelter and have it in operation. He also said he felt like the BG/WC animal shelter would continue to work with the county past the contract date as long as the county was being proactive with moving forward with their own shelter.
"This is not going to be something that's an eyesore," he added. "This will be something attractive with fences and landscaping. I know this decision isn't going to please everybody but as a whole, the fiscal court is trying to do what's best for the entire county and I think this property purchase is a step in the right direction."
One local resident has been added to the next fiscal court agenda to speak on this matter. It's important to note that fiscal court meetings are open to the public; however, they are not open town hall-type forums. No county fiscal court meeting is. If you'd like to speak to Judge Cannon with regards to this or any other matter, or if you'd like to get in touch with your magistrate, you can contact them by visiting the county governmental website: edmonsoncounty.org.