Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dixon Commission discusses possible purchases

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Dixon Commission was in session last week. Among other items discussed was the need to purchase a zero turn mower and a weed eater for the city of Dixon.
Until late last summer the city of Dixon, like all of the other communities in the county, had taken advantage of the mowing services offered by the Webster County jail.
In late August the city of Dixon stopped using the jail’s mowing services. At this time it is unclear whether the commission plans to ask the jail to start mowing again or not.
Mayor Linda Frederick said in a phone interview that they had not ruled that out.
“We gave (water operator) Jamie Harkins the option to use the prisoners when we hired him,” she said. “We just have no had anything for them to do.”
After discussion of purchasing the equipment, the commission decided to table the topic until spring.
Mayor Frederick told the commission that the city was the recipient of a Safety Grant in the amount of approximately $2,800. During the discussion of some of the city’s sidewalks that where in need of repair, she mentioned a bid from Tim Fraiser for repair work that would encompass four areas along highway 132 West.
Commissioner Donna Keller presented a list containing the names of 13 churches that would be willing to hold invocation before the commission meetings. Plans were made to start the invocation service in March.
In October the commission unanimously approved an ordinance that governed prayer held during their meetings. The ordinance outlines who can pray, when they can pray and requires prior approval of those people.
On it’s website, KLC says that “Many cities in Kentucky open their public meetings with a short prayer or invocation.  This practice was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago, but recently legislative prayer policies have taken center stage in a flurry of court cases across the nation.  Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will soon be revisiting the issue and hopefully offering updated legal guidance for cities in Kentucky.”
The practice was most recently brought to the forefront in Coleman and Jones vs. Hamilton County Commission (TN), a case the KLC paid close attention to. In the end the county’s practice of opening meetings with a prayer was allowed, but KLC started urging cities to adopt ordinances outlining their own practice.
So far the city of Dixon is the only one in the county that has addressed the issue.
In other business, the commission discussed updating the city’s Christmas lights, some of which were damaged during the Christmas season. In the end the commission decided to leave that project up to water operator Jamie Harkins.
This is an issue that the Providence Chamber of Commerce also addressed at their most recent meeting. The Chamber hosts the annual Christmas lights display at the Providence city park.
Chamber President Elizabeth Holloman said that there was a company near Benton, KY that manufactures and repairs Christmas light displays.

Broadway student earns trip to spelling bee competition

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Providence Elementary student Erik Sorrels represented his school in Evansville over the weekend in the Tri-State Spelling Bee, held Saturday at Ivy Tech.
Over 145 schools were represented in the competition, with the overall winner moving on to represent the Tri-State at the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee held in Washington.
The contest began with a written round, where students had to not only spell the words correctly, but match them with their definition. The students with the top scores moved on to the oral spelling section.
“It was hard,” said Sorrels, who said he was knocked out of the competition by getting a definition wrong.
According to school officials, Sorrels qualified for the competition by beating out other students at Providence.

Slaughters moving on Festival Plans

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Slaughters City Commission met on Tuesday night in a meeting rescheduled from the week before due to snow.
The main item on the agenda was a meeting with Debbie Winstead of Independence Bank to discuss the future of a festival being planned for the Slaughters area.
Independence Bank sponsors an annual Tractor Ride in each of the five counties in which their branches are located. Last year, the first time the event was held in Slaughters, 57 tractors participated in a tractor show and 39 took part in a ride through 16 miles of rural Webster County.
This year the city is looking to get more involved in the event.
“What we talked about was expanding the tractor ride to be more of a community event,” said Winstead. “We are going to focus on starting small by incorporating different church groups from around the area who want to take part.”
She explained that invitations will be sent to the various churches around the Slaughters area asking them to take part. Each church will have a representative on the festival committee, which will make the decisions.
“I’m strictly going to do the tractor show and drive,” said Winstead, who will serve on the committee “They are going to organize an event with food booths and a ‘fall festival’ type atmosphere.”
Mayor Jeff Coomes has been wanting to start a festival in Slaughters for a number of years, and when a Slaughters citizen came to him with the idea of incorporating the Independence Bank Tractor Day, he jumped at the idea.
Winstead said that she proposed the first Saturday in August for the event, but scheduling will be up to the committee, which will meet in the next month.

Ray joins WC Sheriff's department

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Webster County Sheriff Frankie Springfield recently welcomed Providence native Derrick Ray as the county’s latest deputy.
“I’ve been with the Providence Police Department for the last five and a half years,” said Ray, who graduated from the Police Academy in 2009.
Ray replace former deputy Jay Workins who was released from the Sheriff’s Department in the fall of last year.

Clay hopes that utility increases will allow city to “break even”

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Last Tuesday night the Clay city council heard their annual audit report from CPA Mike Overby. His findings backed up council members recent decision to raise utility rates.
“It’s been well documented that you should have been raising rates all along,” Overby told the council. “I know you are in the process of raising your rates, hopefully that will get you to the point that you can at least break even.”
For the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, the city saw a lost of $138,642 from it’s utilities, which include gas, water and sewer.
“Utilities are generally what makes the money that you need to pay for things like police and fire departments,” Overby said.
The city saw losses from all three utilities. Gas generated $356,968 in profits, but cost the city $419,849, for a loss of $62,881. The water department was close behind, losing $55,468. Sewer generated a loss of $20,293.
The rate increases are more important when you consider the recent cold streak. While on the surface it would seem that colder temperatures would create more usage from gas customers, the down side is that it also forced an increase in the cost to the city.
“Our gas price was $5.13 this morning,” said Mayor Rick Householder. “Earlier in the year their were two days where gas was only $2.95. The rest of the year it ran between $3.50 and $4.50. When you hear on the news about cold weather and power plants are talking about switching over from coal to natural gas, our gas prices go up.”
“We cannot continue to lose $140,000 a year,” said council member Todd Vanover.
“We are not raising our rates to make money,” said Householder. “When you look at our audit report you can see why it’s important for us to raise rates. We are just trying to break even.
“I’m for the increases,” said Vanover. “This is going to cost my home and my business about $200 a month. Even though it’s going to cost me, I don’t see that the city has any other option. We can’t continue to lose money. It’s not feasible.”
“It’s something we have to do,” Householder said. “If anyone has questions they can come in and talk to us. We can show them the audit.”
Council members voted unanimously to approve the second reading of the ordinance for the rate increases, which will go into effect on the bills that go out on March 20, 2014.
Although it is not part of the ordinance, several council members voiced concern over the cost of running the water house where residents can come to fill water tanks. Currently the charge is $0.25 for roughly 48 gallons of water, which is only about half a cent per gallon.
Council member Jackie Edens pointed out that the city itself pays more than that for the water.
In other business, council members finally voted their final approval on a business license ordinance that they have been working on since last summer. The ordinance would require anyone coming into Clay to sell any goods door-to-door to first register at the city office and purchase a $10 business license.
“It’s not a money maker,” said Householder. “It’s just to provide the city and our residents a little protection.”
The council has stressed at numerous times since they began working on the ordinance that just because a person registers for the license does not mean that residents should take that as a sign that the city says they are safe. All it means is that the city has that person on file at the office. Citizens should use their own judgement when it comes to doing business with strangers or allowing them into their homes.