Fiscal Court approves revision to industrial authority ordinance

Published 11:06 am Thursday, April 13, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In a Fiscal Court meeting that sometimes turned contentious and stretched into the afternoon, nearly 40 people gathered inside the Clark County Courthouse Wednesday morning with Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority (WCCIDA) and the Clark County Public Library on their minds.

The court approved a joint ordinance, 5-2, amending the city and county ordinances pertaining to the WCCIA; the ordinance change revolves largely around the Fiscal Court’s level of involvement. Clark County Judge-Executive Les Yates and Magistrate Robert Blanton were the “no” votes.

A resolution that would have suspended the Fiscal Court’s portion of the funding for the industrial authority was until a future meeting.

Email newsletter signup

According to an existing interlocal agreement between the city and Fiscal Court, which was passed in 2001, the WCCIDA’s has an Oversight Committee consisting of the Clark County Judge-Executive, the Mayor of Winchester, the Chairman of the WCCIDA  and the Chair of the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce among others

“The ordinance change doesn’t change the way the IDA operates. It changes the information of how it’s presented to the Fiscal Court, so we’re kept informed of it. It puts parameters saying that no board members shall have any type of conflict of interest,” said Magistrate Dan Konstantopoulos. “It doesn’t give us any more authority, but it allows us to sit in the meetings and hear what’s going on.”

There was both disagreement and support over the ordinance and initial resolution to suspend funding.

Magistrate Ernest Pasley supported the change.

“If the IDA turns away business and tells them to look for other places in Clark County, who in Clark County is following up with those?” Pasley asked. “We don’t know what business they’re turning away, and this ordinance puts us in those meetings.”

Blanton responded.

“We know we can micromanage all we want to, but that’s not our job,” Blanton said. “There’s a sentence in here in this resolution that says, ‘quells clandestine rejections of economic opportunities for this community.’ I don’t know what clandestine rejections they’re talking about, but that’s a strong statement to accuse anybody of.”

Magistrate Chris Davis, also expressing support for the change, mentioned that business growth needs to be a focus.

“Economic development is critically important. We are the slowest growing county around Fayette County except for Bourbon, and to me, that’s embarrassing,” Davis said. “We need to get our hands around this thing.”

Brad Sowden, Executive Director of Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority, also spoke.

“We don’t turn away business. We have covenants that are addressed [about] what’s allowed in the industrial park to protect the folks that have already made investments here to not lessen the value of their property,” Sowden said. “It sounds like we’re just trying to fix something that doesn’t need to be fixed.”

Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed advised against the actions, stating it was creating unnecessary strife.

“I will support the Industrial Authority and what they’re doing, and I will stand beside them to bring growth to this community,” said Reed. “I’m actually very disappointed … I feel this is going to be very detrimental for Winchester and Clark County. We’re supposed to be taking care of this community and not argue with each other. Shame on all of us.”

Magistrate Steve Craycraft felt a lack of communication created a problematic circumstance.

“I hate that it’s come to this, but in recent actions, with the lack of transparency … I felt like we had to do something,” Craycraft said.

Magistrate Mark Miller emphasized a need for communication.

“There’s a lot of good people in this town that [have] a lot of good qualifications to get things done, but I think our communication is a major issue,” Miller said. “You hear a lot of hearsay, you hear a lot of this, that, and the other, and I just wish that we could get together at times and just sit down and actually have the conversations.”

Yates offered similar sentiments and concerns between a division of the Fiscal Court from the City Commission.

Library board nominations

The Court also voted 5-2 against nominating two alternative candidates for the Clark County Public Library Board of Trustees to the Kentucky Department for Library and Archives (KDLA). Blanton and Yates were the “no” votes.

The library Trustees had previously nominated two candidates to the KDLA two replace Dawn Alvarado: Kim Elkins and Carlye Thacker.

Yates explained why he decided to go with the two alternative nominees.

“I was told by the KDLA [that] they would like to rescind the first two names that they submitted to me, and I waited probably another two or three weeks and they then sent two more names”, he said. “The difference was…to complete the term, the local library committee would select two names. If there was a vacancy in office, then the State Department of Library and Archives [would] submit two names.”

Because  Alvarado left with an unexpired term – leaving a vacancy – this theoretically would have given the power to KDLA to select nominees.

The names of the two alternative nominees were not released.

If either nomination passed, their names would have been sent to KDLA, who would have made a final decision about who to choose for the open position.

“They’ve obviously received their two names and sent you two new ones. There’s no sense at this point in time to micromanage every little detail of every little board that we have,” Blanton said.

Davis was among those who did not vote in favor.

“KDLA did what they were supposed to do initially, which was to send you two names…that’s always been the requirement of the statute. It still is,” Davis said. “I question their authority or ability to claw back two names that they’ve already sent to a Judge-Executive under the statute … We have not seen it, and I’m not aware of it.”