HAZARD — While the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Perry County Fiscal Court was short, a series of questions posed to the judge-executive and magistrates covered a wide range of topics. Everything from the homeless shelter to public and private roads to the duties of an elected office in Perry County were discussed.
Following a lengthy and well-publicized closure of the transitional services at the Corner Haven homeless shelter run by Community Ministries, fundraising efforts have been underway to gain the necessary money to reopen the shelter in time for winter. Jennifer Weeber with Community Ministries attended Tuesday’s meeting to request the court’s monetary help in reopening the shelter.
“In May we had to shut down our daytime shelter service because of funding and go to nighttime emergency services only,” said Weeber. “With winter coming on there has been a lot of concern in the community, and we have held several meetings.”
The shelter needs $50,000 to stay open during the day throughout the winter. An anonymous donor pledged to match what they were able to raise to help with this goal. While churches and individuals have also stepped up in force and have pledged and donated over $21,000, more money is still needed.
Following Weeber’s request, Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble asked a series of questions about the shelter and its operations, including finding out facts about some rumors. Noble said that he had heard that the shelter had become a popular place for many out-of-town people to use and abuse the services.
“How many of those people are from Perry County or the surrounding counties?” asked Noble.
“I would say around 90 percent,” said Weeber. “We have a small group of folks who do come from other parts of Kentucky and out of state, but the majority of them have connections here. They grew up here and they moved off, but they came back home. Their parents moved off they came back. They moved here with a spouse and then ended up on the wrong side of the break up.”
Noble then asked about services aimed at finding employment and promoting people leaving the shelter and reintegrating into society.
“At Corner Haven we not only provide folks that come into our shelter with food and a place to stay, but our resident councilors also help link people with education, employment, health services for both physical and mental health, housing, and other services that folks need to reintegrate into the community,” Weeber noted.
Weeber said that all people at the shelter have to do chores and some even work while they live at the shelter to save money to move back into the community.
“I would like to know more about it, and I would like to see the budget,” Noble continued.
While Noble was asking Weeber about the shelter, Lost Creek resident Lloyd Engle asked if he may speak since the issues of the homeless shelter finances was something in which he had taken an interest. He described a recent donation of $400 made by the city as “shameful,” and that the fiscal court should also pitch in to help the shelter return to full services before winter arrives.
“It is a shame that we have got this city government over here and what did they give you $400? That is shameful,” he said. “And here you are asking for money here and you all (the fiscal court) ought to give them some money. Then there are these churches and they go in there suits and ties and their Bibles, and some of these churches have bank accounts of $100,000, $200,000. Listen if you can’t have compassion for people, homeless people, shame on these people. It is a disgrace. All you need is $50,000, and we have got hundreds of churches and city and local government and you can’t raise that money. You are having a hard time doing it. What has happened to us? What have we come to? We waste it.”
After about an hour of discussion, Noble proposed giving the shelter an advance on the coal severance tax money they are slated to receive after the first of the year. The fiscal court then voted to advance $10,000 in coal severance for the shelter, and then take that money out of the $50,000 in coal severance when it arrives, giving them $40,000 later.
Noble also suggested having a representative from county and city government inserted on to the board for the shelter. He said this way the county and city would be more aware of the financial status and services being offered there.
The topic of discussion changed when another Perry County resident, Eddie Campbell, cited a private conversation he had recently had with Judge Noble in which questions over the position of jailer at the Kentucky River Regional Jail were discussed. According to Campbell, Noble had indicated that since the jailer, Jeanette Hughes, has no duties set by law, she has not been preforming tasks she once had.
“Every one of us here works hard, and we talked about her duties and they practically are nonexistent, and you did indicate that,” said Campbell. “I am just trying to find a way to make her feel good about herself when she goes to bed at night.”
Six months ago Hughes came before the fiscal court and asked for a raise for the coming year. Noble indicated then that she had started a program of growing some food at the jail to reduce food cost, and recommended to the court that they give her the raise. However, since then she has told the judge that she is not preforming many of the duties she promised she would.
“When she came into office she said she would transport prisoners and help in the office,” said Noble. “She told me she was not doing it.”
Campbell suggest that Noble and the court apply pressure to her while in office to take on responsibilities at the jail. “Here we are right now paying her $63,000 a year with a $5,000 raise on the horizon, and all of us in good conscience, how are we going to justify that?” Campbell asked.
Another issue that was discussed at length was how to legally repair county roads that are being damaged because of problems on private property. The example that was given was a driveway on Airport Drive in Chavies on which a culvert caused water to pool into the road. In the winters it would freeze and cause a major safety hazard.
Magistrate Frank Hurley asked if it was possible and legal to adopt a private driveway into the county road plan so that repairs can be made to it to fix a public road. County Attorney John Carl Shackleford replied that it was not legal or necessary to adopt a driveway to fix a county road. He suggested getting an easement for just the distance of the property that would be required to make the repairs to keep the county road safe.
A question of how people are put on and renewed for boards in the county was also raised. Several of the non-profit agencies in the county have the board of directors appointed yearly by the fiscal court. One such board is the ambulance board, which will be appointing three members in the coming weeks.
Engle said that he had had a conversation with a member of the ambulance authority board who said he would like to stay on the board. He had recently left his job with county government and was concerned that with the new appointments being made he would be replaced. “Most people don’t want to be on a board anyhow,” said Engle. “You are actually lucky to get people that have got the ability to serve on a board.”
“That is a non-profit organization and I make the decision on who goes on there, and the fiscal court can approve it or not approve it,” said Noble. “That is what the bylaw says.”
The fiscal court also approved a resolution to use leftover funds from state road projects in the county to resurface some county roads. The resolution is an agreement between the fiscal court, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Transportation Cabinet, and the Department of Rural and Municipal Aid to use $280,947 on county roads.