Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fiscal Court hears from Henderson Water District

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The Webster County Fiscal Court was in session on Monday morning. Magistrates moved through a lengthy agenda rather quickly.
One item of discussion was Riden Road near Green Grove. The property owner near the end of the road has approached the road department about adding an additional quarter mile section of road to the snow plow route.
When the county paved Riden Road years ago there was a gate that blocked access beyond a certain point. Everything beyond that gate was designated private property, meaning that county maintenance ended at the gate. Since the gate has been removed and the current property owner has paid to have the remainder of the road paved.
“I think we could go back there and clear it if we get more snow,” said Judge Executive Jim Townsend. “Then we can get measurements to see about adding the road into our system.”
Magistrate Tony Felker said he would speak with the property owner. 
Up to this point everything that lies beyond where the gate once was has been private property. If the property owner agrees to have their drive added to the county road system, that would most likely mean that the drive would become a public road.
In other business, Pete Conrad, the superintendent of the Henderson County Water District (HCWD) came before the court to discuss an increase to tap on fees. HCWD provides water services to residents in extreme northern Webster County, near the Henderson County line.
The increase would move the tap-on, or new service, fee for the average resident from $475 to $650.
“We haven’t changed these rates in almost ten years,” said Conrad. “Currently we are charging $475 for new services, but it costs us way more than that to put the new service in.”
Conrad also told the board that he was appearing before them mostly as a courtesy. The Public Service Commission has required him to speak with the fiscal court in the largest area that HCWD serves, but he told the magistrates that he felt he needed to appear before everyone that they serve. He said the ratio of Henderson to Webster County customers is about 90 to 10.
The court voted to wait until Conrad appears before the Henderson County Fiscal Court before making a decision to accept his proposal.
Tracy Bracewell of Nature Chem met with the magistrates as well. He presented the court with a proposal to provide weed spraying services to the county. For $19,500 dollars Nature Chem will spray 100 miles of Webster County roads  on three occasions during the year.
Magistrates accepted the proposal. They will be driving roads in their districts during the next week to look for areas they feel need to be among those that Nature Chem sprays.
Finally, the Fiscal Court will hold it’s annual budget hearing at the community center in Dixon on Monday, March 24, 2014 starting at 9:00 a.m.

Providence Tourism Commission looks to grow

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
The members of the Providence Tourism Commission have been tasked with creating and supporting events in the city of Providence that will help to fund the generation of tourism dollars. They due that with funds gathered from the city’s “tourism tax”, which comes from a $0.03 tax on food that is prepared and sold in the city limits.
That tax generates $20,000-$25,000 quarterly, or close to $100,000 per year. At last week’s Providence City Council meeting the commission had $300,000 in their bank account.
That figure, however, is a bit misleading. Although the seven member panel is selected by Mayor Eddie Gooch, the mayor nor the city council has any control over how those funds are spent. Commission members must follow state statutes that allow expenditures on only two areas:
•City beautification projects
•Programs or projects that will generate tourism for the city
That rules out patching potholes or buying new city equipment, which is what some people think the commission should be doing. Such expenditures would not be allowed by state law.
“We also get a lot of request from people holding cancer benefits,” said Carol Hill, the treasurer of the commission. “While we would love to help, we are not allowed to use tourism money for that.”
That doesn’t mean that people looking to host an event shouldn’t contact the tourism commission. 
“We are always open for suggestions,” Hill said. “We can try to come up with things ourselves, but we can’t please everybody. We can only come up with so many ideas. We’ve been approached by people about different things, and as long as it’s for tourism, we try to do it.”
Hill said that the commission meets on the third Wednesday of every other month at 4:30 p.m. in Leonard Law Office on Main Street. Those meetings are open to the public, who are encouraged to attend.
There is currently one vacant seat on the commission. The other members are (* member whose term is ending):
•Ben Leonard - Chairman
•Jennifer Gobin - Secretary
•Carol Hill - Treasurer
•Mary Powell *
•Katherine Turner *
•Stephanie Cross *
Hill said that members are appointed for one three year term. Beyond that they have to be appointed one year at a time.
In the past the commission has provided funding for Octoberfest, the Uptown Park, Veterans Plaza and light pole banners for Christmas, spring (etc.). In addition, the commission makes an annual payment of $5,000 for Providence Municipal Golf & Recreation Center.
The commission also picks up half the cost of the fireworks display on July 4, and all of the entertainment for that celebration.
Last year the commission voted to provide funds for a new soccer complex planned for Highland Avenue by the city park. They also paid for the stripping and sealing of Frank White Track at Westerfield Park. They provided $19,000 of the $35,000 needed for repaving and repairing the tennis courts at  the Golf and Recreation Center and $19,000 to repair cart paths at that facility.
This year the commission is looking to provide $19,000 for tennis court repair at city park and more funding to continue to repair the cart paths at the Golf and Recreation Center.
Hill also said the commission has discussed creating a paid staff position for someone to handle the day-to-day operations of the commission.
“We are all volunteers and have other jobs,” said Hill, who works at Providence Elementary School. “If we had someone who could just work for us and plan events, I think we could get a lot more things done.”
If the commission does decide to follow through with that plan, it would be subject to the same guidelines as any other tax funded organization. This means the position would have to be advertised and posted for the public to submit applications.

Webster County schools look to start boys soccer program

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
“We’re going to have boys soccer at Webster County High School  next school year,” Interim Superintendent Pete Galloway told supporters of the movement to create the new sports program in Webster County.
It was a bold statement from Galloway, but, at least vocally, he had the support of the school board.
“Athletics is a piece of the academic puzzle,” said board member Mickey Dunbar. “If we commit to improving our academics, we need to commit to improving athletics. It will create new opportunity for our students.”
The measure was not up for vote on Monday, but it was on the agenda to be discussed. A group of parents, represented by Allison McCormick, approached the board in the fall with a request to launch the new program for next school year. At that time the board offered guidance on how to proceed, and told Webster County High School Athletic Director Matt Bell to look into it.
Galloway presented his recommendation to the board, suggesting that the district adopt not only boys soccer, but also co-ed archery as official school sponsored sports. The catch being that to create two new teams, the board will have to find the funding to hire at least two additional coaches.
“When I got here I spoke with Matt Bell and he suggested the gender equity committee felt that at this point we needed to adjust salaries of existing athletic coaches rather than spreading the salaries thinner by hiring two new coaches,” said Galloway. “We talked about where WC coaching salaries match up with surrounding district salaries. It was an embarrassment. If we are going to be  in the top 20% of districts  in the state academically, we are going to expect to have those same standards athletically.”
Galloway’s proposal included a $6,000 - 7,000 increase next school year to hire the new coaches and to provide the existing staff with much needed raises. But that budget is pending on a two percent increase proposed in the Governor’s new state budget.
“I am volunteering to coach boys soccer free of charge to get this going until a coach can be found,” said Troy Grant, the coach of the webster County girls’ soccer team.
“Please don’t let money table this issue,” pleaded Matt Pratt, an assistant with the girl’s team and commissioner of the Webster County youth soccer league.
Allison McCormick asked superintendent Galloway if the next step was to take the proposal to the to high school site based committee, but he told her that this wasn’t a site based decision.
At this point it is unclear whether there will be enough interest to have both a varsity and JV squad, that will depend on how interest meetings the rest of this school year go. The hope of everyone involved is that the addition of the boy’s program will allow the district to hold onto students that have otherwise transferred to schools that had a boy’s soccer program.
“Henderson County has boasted that they have five of our boys on their soccer team,” McCormick told the board. “Maybe this will help us convince them to come back.”
In other business, the school board voted to increase meal prices for the 2014-2015 school year. Breakfast will be going from $1.40 to 1.50, while lunch will increase from $1.90 to $2.00.
Earlier this year Food Service Director Shane Bosaw spoke with the board about the need to increase prices. Currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reimburses food services $2.65 for every child on the free lunch program. The FDA is requiring schools to begin raising meal prices to match the reimbursement price if they want to continue to receive federal funds.
The board also voted on Monday night to hire Kem, Duguid & Associates from Hopkinsville to be their new auditor, cutting ties with long time district auditor Mike Overby.
Galloway pointed out that this was in no way a negative mark towards Overby.
“The KSBA recommends that school boards change auditors every four or five years just to get a fresh look,” he said.