By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
Heroin, a drug much cheaper than many pain pills, is starting to become a problem for Madison County, Coroner and EMS Director Jimmy Cornelison told the Madison County Fiscal Court on Tuesday.
“It’s alarming,” Carlos Coyle, assistant EMS director said after the meeting.
The local EMS has treated more heroin overdoses in the past three or four months than ever before, Coyle said. “There for a while, we never saw heroin in our county, but it’s here now.”
Although the state “pill-mill” law has cut down on prescription drug abuse by closing some questionable clinics and tightening prescription rules, “there’s always a replacement (drug),” Coyle said. “It’s hard to get your arms around the entire problem.”
Cornelison speculated that the economic downturn could have something do with preference for the cheaper drug.
“I’m telling you, we’re going to see a major impact with heroin in our county,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Magistrate Roger Barger said drugs affect a community in ways people do not realize.
He told a story about a small factory in the southeastern part of the county that had the opportunity to add 65 jobs, but the company found only 10 qualified people who could pass a drug test.
“That factory lost those 65 jobs, and it went to another state,” Barger said. “You can’t grow the economy with the drug situation like it is, and it’s not getting any better.”
Judge-Executive Kent Clark said he went to a regional economic development summit in Lexington last week attended by 11 county judges and 15 mayors, and “the biggest topic was drugs.”
“There’s no quick fix. It’s something we hope doesn’t get worse, but it probably is ― this is something we all have to address,” Clark added.
Another consequence of the poor economy is the number of uninsured people who need medical care, Cornelison said. “You’d be surprised how many people we go to pick up in the ambulance who tell us they can’t go because they don’t have health insurance.”
“We say, ‘Come on, let’s go, it doesn’t make any difference,’” he said. “But people are concerned about that.”
EMS expansion in Berea
The EMS responded to 16,024 calls in 2012, both emergency and nonemergency requests, Cornelison said. The agency has 65 staff and 13 licensed ambulances.
“We’re 24/7, and there’s never a dull moment,” the director said. “As we expand as a population, the problems that we’re seeing with drugs in our county … business is solid, unfortunately.”
The county has four EMS stations, three in Richmond and one in Berea. However, the EMS is searching for a new location for a station in Berea.
“We need to expand our Berea facility because business in Berea has expanded,” Cornelison said.
Clark said he has been talking with Berea College’s new president, Lyle D. Roelofs, about using college property that would keep the EMS close to downtown Berea, the college and the interstate, and that also would allow for future expansion.
“The president assured me we would be able to work something out,” Clark said about the prospect of using Berea College property.
“I’m glad because, I mean, they (Berea College) don’t give up much,” said Magistrate Larry Combs, who represents the Berea area. “It’s tickled me that they’re willing to talk to us about it.”
Cornelison said the college has always been very receptive to EMS requests.
“I know they don’t want (the EMS) to get very far from the college, and by doing so, we don’t get too far from our high school and middles schools in that area,” he added.
“Influential Madison County leaders” displayed in courtroom
Portraits of “three individual significant in Madison County’s history” were donated to the county by the Historical Properties Department, said Phillip Seyfrit, director of the organization.
“When tour groups and school groups come through, they’ll have a little idea of who we are as a people,” Seyfrit said.
The largest portrait was of U.S. President James Madison, for whom the county was named. There are 20 counties nationwide named after Madison, but Kentucky’s was the first, Seyfrit said.
Madison was the principal architect of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and came up with the concept of the Electoral College, he added. Madison was elected president in 1808, 20 years after Madison County was established.
The second portrait is of James B. McCreary, who was the 27th and 37th governor of Kentucky. McCreary is a Madison County native and a Confederate Army veteran.
“His home still stands on West Main Street where the old medical arts building is,” Seyfrit said.
The third portrait was of Keen Johnson, Kentucky’s 45th governor. He served as lieutenant governor under Happy Chandler and was the first undersecretary of labor under President Harry Truman.
Johnson also was a former co-owner and editor of the Richmond Register and has a building named after him on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus. He also was instrumental in the getting the first phase of the Clays Ferry Bridge constructed.
Industrial zoning classification added
The fiscal court approved an amendment to zoning regulations that would divide industry into light and heavy. The current industrial classification “requires everyone to fit in one category,” said Dwayne Curry, county planning and code adminstration.
“Heavy industry” needs to be where there is municipal sewer and easier access to major highways, he said, whereas “light industry” can fit into rural corridor areas and small community areas.
The additional zoning classification “allows the planning commission a little more flexibility,” Curry said. “We can work with small businesses in smaller communities, instead of forcing everybody into an industrial park where they have to pay a premium price for land and infrastructure. Everybody’s going to fit somewhere.”
Dead animal removal vehicle approved
The fiscal court approved the purchase of an International 7400-series truck to pick up and dispose of dead livestock from the county’s farmers.
The truck is exactly like the recycling truck purchased by the county last year, said Scott Tussey, the county’s solid waste coordinator.
The county will get $50,000 toward the purchase of the truck from the Madison County Tobacco Settlement Board, Tussey said. The truck’s stainless-steal bed should cost around $30,000, with the total coast about $106,000.
“We get a little bit (of money), but it doesn’t near cover the cost of the services we provide, but it helps,” Clark said. Several members of the settlement board said the money was running out, so now was a good time to apply for the truck funds.
The county has removed up to 25 livestock a day, Tussey said. Last year, it picked up 1,300 livestock, down from 1,500 the previous year.
“I guess you could say last year was a better year for farmers,” he added.
In other business:
• Leslie Carr, a second-grade teacher at Glenn Marshall Elementary, was appointed to the five-member library board.
• Thompson Promotional Products, a Richmond company, was awarded the bid to produce promotional items for CSEPP, the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.
• Shannon Pennington and Robert McKinney were re-appointed to the planning commission to serve terms that expire December 30, 2016.
• Magistrate Billy Ray Hughes said he wanted to encourage farmers to contribute an extra $10 when renewing their farmer’s tags. The money benefits 4-H, Future Farmer’s of America and the Kentucky Proud programs, he said.
• Clark said he had received a proposed resolution from one of the magistrates in support of hemp farming. The resolution will be added on the agenda for discussion, Clark said.
At the end of the meeting Curry took the floor to praise those who responded when his brother suffered a “sudden cardiac death” while exercising at the Telford YMCA earlier this year. One YMCA staff member and a citizen started CPR on his brother, Curry said.
“I appreciate the rapid response of the good citizens of this community and the good services that this court and the county offers to the citizens of the community,” he said. “It’s easy to fuss about taxing districts and how our taxes are too high. But the taxes are never too high when it’s your own family. It’s very much appreciated.”
The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. at the Madison County Courthouse in Richmond.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.