County continues to tighten purse strings

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By The Staff

Until county revenues pick up and an end to the economic slump is in the foreseeable future, the Washington County Fiscal Court is doing everything they can to account for every penny in the coffer. That includes cutting back on spending that may have come easily before, but is difficult to give up now.

At last week’s meeting, the fiscal court received a request from the Springfield – Washington County Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President Ralph Blandford requested $5,000 in funding from the court, money that the court has contributed annually. But due to the tightening of the county’s purse strings, and various in-kind services already provided by the county in the form of equipment and man hours, the chamber’s request for a monetary donation fell upon deaf ears.

“I am requesting from the fiscal court an annual donation that we have received in the past,” Blandford said as he addressed the court. “We are requesting that for the 2009-10 year, and I’m here to answer any questions or updates with what is going on with the chamber.”

Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles asked Blandford to provide an update on the approaching Kentucky Crossroads Harvest Festival. Blandford informed the court that the chamber has been busy preparing for the festival, and that the barbeque contest has reached its maximum number of participants.

“We were shooting for 15 teams, that’s what is required for this to be a state championship,” said Blandford. “We’re up to 25 teams and we’ve had to cut them off because we simply do not have enough room to accommodate any more.”

Blandford also said that it would cost approximately $2,500 to cover electricity costs at the site of the cook-off.

Settles requested information about chamber activities aside from the festival.

Blandford added, “We had the concerts in the park the past two summers, but they are not really working out. We’ve had a couple of comedians in town and one was a big hit. We’re looking at things that are going to work. What our main concern is right now is tourism. We’re trying to get people into Springfield. We want to showcase what we have because we’re very proud of it. We start out with nine members on the board and usually before the year is over, we end up with about five, and that’s where we are right now. As long as things are going really well, we can keep a full staff.”

Settles asked Blandford if the chamber office is being staffed and Blandford informed the court that his daughter is handling work at the office, but is not drawing a salary. Only her expenses are being covered. Blandford added that the chamber is looking for a way to keep the office staffed on a daily basis using retired volunteers.

“We are totally volunteer, nobody on the chamber gets paid,” Blandford said. “We’re just trying to get people to Springfield and keep things going.”

The county provides in-kind services for the different events and festivals held in the county during the year. This includes paying county employees overtime for working clean-up detail, moving equipment and making sure logistics are handled.

When Blandford finished his presentation, magistrate Benjamin Settles made a motion to provide $2,500 to the chamber, half of the requested donation.

“I make a motion that we give them $2,500 to pay for part of the utilities,” said Settles.

Blandford replied, “The usual donation has been $5,000 and the city matches that. That’s what we’ve received for several years.”

Judge Settles asked the court, “We have a motion on the floor, do we have a second?”

Magistrate Morris Sweazey asked the judge if there was money in the budget for the donation.

“Yes, there is money in the budget,” Judge Settles replied. “It’s under fiscal court memberships, which is 502-551. That’s what the Kentucky Magistrates and Commissioners Association membership comes out of. We put an additional $5,000 in there in case the court did approve it. And Morris, you’ve been around long enough to know that just because it’s appropriated, doesn’t mean it has to be spent.”

The judge again asked for a second to Magistrate Settles’ motion, but what followed were several seconds of awkward silence.

“It’s going to die for lack of a second if we don’t get a second on the motion,” said the judge.

Following more silence from the court, the judge declared the motion dead due to a lack of a second.

“The floor is now open for a second or additional motion,” said Judge Settles.

Once again, the courtroom fell silent as no other motion was made. Judge Settles thanked Blandford for his presentation to the court.

Settles added, “I appreciate your presentation, and you and I talked the other day about the schedule and having county workers come in and help with the parade and activities, but as of right now it looks like we don’t have the motion or the second for any support.”