The Letcher Fiscal Court voted 4-2 this week to examine the possibility of turning over the county’s garbage collection system to a private company.
The issue wasn’t on the agenda for Monday night’s June meeting of the court. It came up instead during a discussion about whether the county government should continue attaching overdue garbage fees to property tax bills.
Blackey resident John Cleveland, the county’s former solid waste coordinator, began by asking about the status of the past due bills. Letcher County Attorney Harold Bolling told Cleveland and the court that he has issues concerning the legality of the process begun last year, but Cleveland insisted the action has been approved by the Office of the Attorney General and is covered under state law (KRS 109.310).
At that point, District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming suggested the county look into the possibility of reaching a franchise agreement with a waste management company. Fleming said the court could tailor the franchise to make certain that mandatory garbage collection for every resident of Letcher County continues.
“I have a suggestion that we lease it (garbage collection) out to a garbage franchise,” said Fleming. “We can take in $200,000 a year and stop losing $300,000 a year. We can spend that money on something worthwhile. We have to have mandatory garbage collection, and we can make it mandatory to hire our people. We can get away from this process and get rid of having to put it on people’s tax bills.”
County Attorney Bolling said if the court considers privatizing garbage collection it will be necessary under state law to hold a public bidding process in order to sell the franchise. Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he has been told Perry County earns between $300,000 and $400,000 per year from its franchise fees. Ward said that would be preferable to continuing to lose more than $200,000 a year on garbage collection, as is the case here.
Cleveland said he was concerned an outside company might not pay good wages or provide benefits. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson said he was concerned about possible increases in garbage bills as well.
Ward said the problem with the current system is the high cost of tipping (landfill) fees, and the waste management companies own the landfills so their profit rate is considerably higher than it is for the county. District Two Magistrate Archie Banks said it is up to the court to make a franchise agreement that will take care of the people.
Fleming said he has always supported mandatory garbage collection in the county and is pleased the county is cleaner than it was before mandatory collection was instituted. However, he said the system hasn’t worked well for the past several years. He also agreed the county government can write the franchise to suit its needs and protect workers and residents as well.
Cleveland then told the court that under the current arrangement, it is not necessary for the sanitation department to actually make money, just to break even. Cleveland also said Letcher County is considered to have one of the best systems in the state.
The discussion became somewhat contentious when Cleveland asked Ward not to interrupt him. Cleveland said he hadn’t used up his five minutes and told the court, “Don’t sing me down.” At that point Ward called the question. Fleming, Banks, Ward, and District Four Magistrate Keith Adams voted in favor of the motion. The no votes were cast by Gibson and District One Magistrate Bobby Lewis.
The court this week also conducted
the second reading of amendments to the county Ethics
Code ordinance. The ordinance
was changed from the first reading which was conducted at the May meeting to redefine the term “county employee.” Cleveland objected to the exclusion of several categories of county workers including chief deputy, department heads, and ethics board members from the financial reporting requirements. But Ward said the reporting requirements had kept the county from being able to recruit ethics board members.
Magistrate Banks moved to accept the revised ordinance and Codell Gibson seconded. Cleveland asked if there would be any discussion, but Ward called the question. The revisions to the ethics code passed unanimously.
The amended portion of the ethics code reads as follows:
A. “Business Associate” includes the following:
1. A private employer;
2. A general or limited partnership, or a general or limited partner within the partnership;
3. A corporation that is family owned or in which all shares of stock are closely held, and the shareholders, owners, and officers of such a corporation;
4. A corporation, business association, or other business entity in which the county government officer or employee serves as a compensated agent or representative.
B. “Business Organization” means any corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, firm, enterprise, franchise, association, organization, self-employed individual, holding company, joint stock company, receivership, trust, professional service corporation, or any legal entity through which business is conducted for profit.
C. “Candidate” means an individual who seeks nomination or election to a county government office. An individual is a candidate when the individual:
1. Files a notification and declaration for nomination for office with a county clerk or the secretary of state; or
2. Is nominated for office by a political party under KRS 118.105, 118.115, 118.325, or 118.760.
D. “County Government Agency” means any board, commission, authority, non-stock corporation, or other entity formed by the county government or a combination of local governments.
E. “County Government Employee” means any person who holds a compensated position, whether part time or full time, employed by or serving the county government or county government agency who is not a county government officer. But shall not mean any employee of a school district or school board.
F. “County Government Officer” means any person whether compensated or not, whether full time or part time, who is elected to any county government office; or any person who serves as a member of the governing body of any county government agency or special taxing or non- taxing district.
G. “Anything of value” means bank bills or notes; a contract, agreement, promise, or other obligation loan, payment, gift, pledge of money, or for forgiveness of indebtedness; stocks, bonds, notes or other investments in an entity; works of art, antiques, collectables, or automobiles; real estate or an interest in real estate; a rebate or discount on the price of anything of value; a promise or offer of employment; or anything of value that is pecuniary or compensatory in value to a person.
H. “Immediate Family and or Family member” means spouse, parent, child, brother, or sister.
I. “Exempt employees” means employees that are exempt from the application of this code of ethics and includes only the following positions” temporary employees defined as interns, student workers or summer workers and employment is not to exceed three months.
M. Every officer or employee who has a prohibited financial interest as defined in A through L which the officer or employee believes or has reason to believe may be affected by his or her participation, vote, decision or other action taken within the scope of his or her public duties shall disclose the precise nature and value of the interest, orally or in writing, to the governing body in an open meeting of the county or county agency served by the office or employee, and the disclosure shall be entered on the official record of the proceedings of the governing body. The officer or employee shall refrain from taking any action with respect to the matter that is the subject of the disclosure.
After the effective date of this ordinance, no family member of an elected county officer shall be initially employed or appointed to a position in any county government agency in the same county in which the officer serves, except persons presently employed on the date of the ordinance.
III.2. Exempt Employees
All employees described as exempt employees herein are excluded and are not covered by the terms of this ordinance.
IV. Financial Disclosure
A. The following individuals shall be required to file a financial disclosure statement:
1. Elected Officers
2. Candidates for elected office
3. Members of the Water and Sewer District Board
4. Members of the Tourism Board
5. Members of the Economic Development Board
B. The financial disclosure statement should include the following information:
1. Name of filer;
2. Current business address, business telephone number, and home address of filer;
3. Title of filer’s public office or office sought;
4. Occupation of filer and spouse;
5. Positions held by the filer and any member of the filer’s immediate family in any business organization or nonprofit entity from which the filer or any member of the filer’s immediate family received compensation in excess of $5,000 during the preceding calendar year, and the name, address, and telephone number of the business organization or nonprofit entity;
6. Name, address, and telephone number of each source of income of the filer and spouse which exceeded $5,000 during the preceding calendar year;
7. Name, address, and telephone number of each business organization in which the filer or any member of the filer’s immediate family had an interest of $5,000 at fair market value or five percent (5%) ownership interest or more during the preceding year;
8. The location and type (commercial, residential, agricultural) of all real property within the county, other than the filer’s primary residence, in which the filer or any member of the filer’s immediate family had an interest of $5,000 or more during the past year;
9. Any officer or employee or any member of his immediate
family, or the county government who shall have any private financial interest,
directly or indirectly, in any contract or matter pending.