Madison Judge/ Executive Kent Clark reviewed all 13 county departments Friday in a State of the County Address to a joint meeting of the Richmond and Berea chambers of commerce, but he singled out the road department for special praise
In a normal year, county road crews will work for two, to two-and-a-half months of winter, Clark said. This past winter, however, the crews “worked around the clock for four months.”
They also went through 7,000 tons of salt, compared to 2,500 in a typical year.
Salt this past winter cost the county $65 a ton, but bids for a new supply recently came in at $100, Clark said. That has put the county in a dilemma on whether to continue maintaining a number of state roads within its jurisdiction.
“We’ve got to try to renegotiate” the agreement with the state, he said because the county cannot afford to buy that much salt at the higher price.
The overcrowded jail is another big issue for the county. Expanding the facility is the only realistic option, Clark said
“Some people come up and tell me we need to go out in the county and build a bigger facility,” the judge/executive said. “If you can find some place in Madison County where people can agree to build a huge detention center and then show me where to get the 30 to 40 million (dollars) in costs to run the infrastructure out, and then build the building and then hire the additional staff, then I might look at doing it. But that’s impossible. You can talk about it all you want, but the only option we have is to expand.”
Clark said he has preliminary plans in his desk for a 100-bed expansion building where the Miller House stood next to the jail. There also is another plan for a 150-bed expansion and a new kitchen in the same area.
County taxpayers are subsidizing the jail’s $2.5 million budget with $1.5 million from the general fund. Expense will rise in the next couple of years, and if something isn’t done, Clark said, the annual subsidy could reach $2.5 million, even $3 million.
“It’s time. It’s the first of the year; we can really take a positive look at this,” Clark said, “and get something started on the jail expansion because we got to do it.”
However, Clark said the county has started a home incarceration program to help take some of the overcrowding from the jail.
As he wrapped up his speech, Clark joked about what a judge/executive actually does.
“Well, he makes people mad most of the time,” he said.
On a more serious note, Clark said he writes a budget with help from fiscal court as well as county department heads, and he works with them throughout the year.
“We work with those 13 department heads and our employees to ensure we’re providing the very best services for your tax money,” Clark said.
He ended his speech by talking about how great it is to be in Madison County.
“Nobody anywhere in the whole world lives and breathes the quality of life we experience here in Madison County,” Clark said. “That’s because of all of you guys, the 80,000 people that live here that care about Madison County.”
Other items covered include:
• The county emergency management agency is not just a model for the state, but for the whole country. Clark said it does a good job training people to handle emergencies as well as taking care of those emergencies when they happen.
• The solid waste department offers many free pickup programs, dead farm-animal pickup, as well as small and large items. They are the only such free programs in the state. Clark said he would like to see the county and the cities of Richmond and Berea operate a combined, single-stream recycling program.
• Madison County runs one of the most cost efficient animal shelters in the state, spending about $225,000 a year compared to Jessamine County that spends almost $500,000. A new cat facility was recently completed, creating more space in the main shelter.
• The county plans to break ground on a new veterans center near the fairgrounds this summer.
Clark is facing a challenge in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary from Wayne Renfro.
Five Republicans, including two fiscal court members and one county department head, are seeking their party’s nomination Tuesday.
They are: Duane Curry, planning and codes administrator; magistrates Billy Ray Hughes and Greg King; builder/developer Reagan Taylor; and Madison County Schools Transportation Department mechanic Jonathon Thompson.
When asked after the meeting about the timing of the address, Richmond Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mendi Goble said it is scheduled for mid-May each year to coincide with Leadership Madison County’s graduation.
The timing should not be construed as giving the incumbent an endorsement, she added.