By the time the first two guest speakers returned to their seats during last week's meeting, the Marshall County Fiscal Court learned the county had been awarded funds; more than $650,000 for Houser Road and two Homeland Security grants for more than $180,000.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Greg Thomas stopped by to announce $677,240 in discretionary funds had been awarded to the MCFC to cover the cost of 4.5 miles of resurfacing work along Houser Road and replacement of the bridge over Smith Creek. He noted the bridge has been closed to traffic for some time and people who live nearby have had to detour.
Thomas said KYTC did a "listening tour" in the fall go 2018, visiting communities to hear the concerns of the people who lived there. He said when they started looking at what the residents needed versus the county budgets and what they were able to address in a year's time, the available funding "didn't stack up," and they learned the counties are "in dire need of funding." He noted a project like the upcoming Houser Road project would drain the entire road funding budget for a fiscal year for many Kentucky communities.
He said Gov. Matt Bevin and legislators like Rep. Chris Freeland, who attended the meeting for the announcement, heard the concerns of local leaders and rose to the occasion.
"Gov. Bevin remains committed to prioritizing transportation projects that enhance safety and economic opportunity in counties and communities across the commonwealth," Thomas said. "This funding builds upon existing transportation investments and demonstrates the importance of collaborating with local governments to identify projects that positively impact communities."
Marshall County Judge-Executive noted the allocation "is tremendous." He said no timeline has been set for the project but it should begin quickly once the construction contract has been executed. He also said the bridge will remain closed for the duration of the construction project.
Marshall County E-911 Director Chris Freeman was up next to present a poster-sized "check" and announced his department was awarded two Homeland Security grants totaling $180,330.13. He said the funds would be used to purchase four new consoles with headsets and wireless headset bases for the dispatchers, as well as new recorders. He expected the contract would be finalized later this month and should be able to purchase the equipment in Aug. He noted his department would not qualify for reimbursement if they move ahead with purchasing before the contract is finalized.
The new consoles with headsets are going to allow for more efficient telecommunications, Freeman explained, saying it will free up the hands of the dispatchers and cut down on the background noise. The new equipment will also allow the dispatchers to remain on the line with the callers while they dispatch, he said.
Neal noted the information coming in from the callers and then transmitted to the responders is important and needs to be caught the first time around without the noise Freeman described as "background chaos." He asked Marshall County Sheriff Eddie McGuire to explain what the current radio traffic sounds like on the responders' end.
McGuire said, "From our perspective, to put it as an example, it would be like you answering a cell phone in a rock concert and expecting the person on the other end to hear you. That's kind of the way it is when they dispatch, especially when they dispatch two or three different agencies at one time and they don't have a way to mute…it's almost impossible to hear. You just take bits and pieces of what you can understand and go with it and that's not as efficient as we should be. You'll hear units seven or eight times a day asking to repeat. On our end it's a huge safety issue so it's going to be a huge problem that's being corrected so we're happy to have that grant."
In other business:
• Neal started the meeting with a moment of silence for the late Jerry English, former Marshall County Sheriff and Marshall County Commissioner, who died the week before, saying English was a good public servant. Commissioner Monti Collins said he has fond memories of English from his racing days and recalled going to the Paducah International Raceway with his father to watch English race. Later, he was able to get to know English personally and said he "was a great guy."
• The fiscal court members heard and approved the second reading of the transient room tax ordinance which clarifies who is responsible for collecting and turning over the transient room tax, Marshall County Attorney Jason Darnall explained. He said the court recently learned there were several short-term rentals escaping the tax, which highlighted the need for the ordinance. He said since the first reading, he had made some revisions based on the input received from local tourism officials. Neal said the online registry for short-term rental businesses is almost complete and live.
• Neal told the fiscal court members Chad McCann with Rivercrest Engineering, which is the company designing and overseeing the sewer/water expansion project to extend service to the Southwest One Industrial Park, said the project is ready for procurement. He said there are about three properties which are still negotiating easements but those don't affect the major lines, just the interceptor project which is being done with the City of Benton.
• The fiscal court members approved Marshall County Roads Superintendent letting a bid for the bridge portion of the Houser Road project, but Neal noted they won't be able to start until the contract with KYTC is finalized. She said the original bridge is 20'x60' and was built in 1985; it will be replaced with a 24'x70' structure.
• There will be a special-called fiscal court meeting tomorrow, July 24, at 10 a.m. for a presentation regarding Marshall County E-911.
• The fiscal court members met in executive session to discuss litigation; no announcement was made when they returned to regular session.