Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor made a splash in his first State of the County Address of his second term. Taylor announced Friday that the Administrative Office of the Courts has approved the county's renderings for a $10 million renovation to the Madison County Courthouse beginning in 2020.
Taylor said that the project was authorized through the state budget and is to update the historic courthouse to make it safer for the community.
"Madison County has the fourth highest circuit court indictment docket in the state, and yet, this facility that tries the worst of the worst criminals from murderers to rapists does not even have the basic requirements met for safety," he said.
Taylor went on to say that there is only one courtroom, no holding cells or secured parking spots for judges, no safe transport from the jail to the courtroom and limited security, only having one metal detector for when people enter the courtroom, not the building itself.
"We are excited to maintain the beautiful history of one of the oldest historic treasures in our county while providing judges, citizens and inmates the safety and security both required and deserved," he said.
Taylor mentioned in the address before both the Richmond and Berea chambers of commerce, that he and his team were calling this year, the "Year of Innovation," noting the group would have to "think outside of the box to come up with solutions to enhance service delivery and to evaluate the return on investment for programs."
In doing this, he says the county government will not only fix broken issues, but find new ways to enhance the customer experience, utilize technology to increase efficiency and advance the county government.
"Our goal is to be the county by which all other counties are measured," he said.
Already this year, the team is working on several projects which include a "paper to web" application which will move certain documents done on paper completely over to an electronic system.
In addition, the county is also in the process of hiring an enforcement official to enhance collection of business license registration and occupational tax submissions while also working to remedy nuisance and property issues in the county.
Taylor stressed that in order to be one of the best counties in Kentucky, the county along with the cities of Richmond and Berea must have and maintain a healthy partnership.
Since the most recent election brought new mayors Robert Blythe and Bruce Fraley, who were both in attendance for the address, Taylor says that the three meet for coffee monthly to obtain a "deeper relationship, an understanding of the common goals and discussions about brainstorming."
"Like our state motto says, 'United we stand, divided we fall,'" he recited. "We are three that are committed to being united. But please know that united doesn't always mean agreement. United means we will stand side by side with mutual support and trust in both the good times and the bad."
Taylor discussed several projects that he claims highlights the county's "growth", mentioning the start of the $1 million road repair project at Exit 95/Boonesborough Road and the finalizing of an application for a 2019 federal BUILD grant to enhance Exit 83/Duncannon Exchange.
He noted that the county is looking into drone and artificial intelligence research to hopefully replace the nearly $1 million in occupational tax that the county will lose in 2025 after the "demil" project comes to a close.
"Each of these projects highlights our growth, and reminds me everyday that Madison County is no longer the small rural county of my childhood," he said. "We are a large urban county. Such growth has many positives, but being a realist, it also has some negatives."
He became serious when bringing up the financial hardship the county faces as a result of the ongoing drug epidemic that consumes the county.
Last year, the fiscal court allocated an additional $2.2 million to the jail and $1.5 million to the sheriff's office to combat the drug problem, according to Taylor.
"While some may think that this is merely a fiscal court issue, each of our elected officials have proven their commitment to addressing our drug epidemic and jail overcrowding," he said.
"Without a doubt, we must continue to be focused on addressing our drug crisis because it is the single highest expense our county faces," he said. "...Madison County has a proud past and a promising future and for that I am excited to join with you and lead our county for the next four years as we continue to build a better Madison County."
Other highlights include:
• Francette Durbin was honored as a Kentucky Colonel for her service as the county's administrative assistant by State Rep. Deanna Frazier.
• A graduation ceremony was held for the class of 2018-2019 Leadership Madison County program. Deanna Baker received the Distinguished Leadership Award, Katie DeSimone received the 110% Award and Georgia Parks was given the Spirit Award.
• Jeannette Rowlett, president of the Berea Chamber of Commerce, awarded the May Business of the Month to the Central Kentucky Regional Airport.