We finally have a break in the mini-drought and the rain has been gently falling. It has been much needed, but in June did you think you would ever wish for rain again?
Before I jump into the big issue of the week, I just wanted to send a hearty thank you to the first responders who were out all weekend. From brush fires to car wrecks, from crimes to ambulance runs, they responded like gang busters. The EMS personnel made 18 runs since Friday and the Coroner was pretty busy as well. It has been a long weekend for the volunteer and paid responders, and they have been there for us at every turn.
If you haven’t heard, there is a rumor going around that the judge is trying to close down the Recreation Center. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but it has been an issue I have had to address since late last week. So, here is what the judge is really doing, negotiating a lease to keep it running. The existing lease was signed in 2004. if you would like to see it, it can be emailed to you or you can pick up a copy in the office.
In essence, Mountain Mission partnered with Lee County and was given the existing building for free until 2007, then they had to pay $3,600 a year until 2010, and from 2011 to 2023, $6000 a year. They were also responsible for paying for solid waste pick up. The County never collected on the rent or asked for solid waste payment. In essence, donating our partner about $61,000 in rent and $29,000 in solid waste.
I don’t want you to get the impression our partner, KMM did nothing. They did. They marshalled resources, got donations and worked tirelessly to turn the old CO-OP into something the entire community can enjoy.
The County participated in the renovation and in 2006 put $25,000 into the building the bowling alley, and in 2007 put $15,000 into the Heating and Cooling system. Things were moving along sweetly and the bowling alley was up and running. In 2012 the County stepped in and put about $17,000 into renovating the bathrooms.
In 2016, $1,195 was taken out of the general fund and designated for the Recreation Center. Why, isn’t noted in the records.
Then our partner reached out to us again in 2017 and said, “Let’s do a Rock Climbing Wall”, so Lee County stepped up to the plate starting in January 2018 and over the months invested $7,500 into enclosing the area for the climbing wall, another $7,200 into lumber for the climbing wall, another $4,358 to construct an interior wall, $6,900 to repair the roof, $963 for general construction, and $991 for supplies from the general fund. Luckily, after taking office, this administration was able to get part of that money back by telling Frankfort it was an economic development project that we were working on.
The current insurance on the Lee County Recreation Center building, which is valued at `1.076 million dollars, is $1,508 a year.
By my calculations, Lee County has committed $86,145 in funding for the Rec Center and deferred $90,000 in expenses.
I had these numbers in my head when I notified the magistrates and KMM that I had found a lease that we were not enforcing and that we had to clear up the confusion.
Knowing there would be a debate on the lease, I did my due diligence and some research on who I was negotiating with and found that KMM was not only healthy but growing dramatically. Their net assets grew from 1.168 million to 1.695 between 2014 and 2017. When we finished our discussion, I was told there was no way to pay rent. Because I had seen the finances reported to the IRS, I asked for financials to explain why it wasn’t possible. Things languished for awhile and I received a sparse financial report. After a few weeks, I sent a proposed lease to the County Attorney, then several days later a proposed lease to the Fiscal Court and KMM. I put $1800 a month on there, because KMMs initial offer was 0 and the financials provided didn’t adequately explain the situation for me, and I reasoned, there are five businesses generating income in the building, so there had to be more of an explanation on why things couldn’t work out. My proposal hit the internet and that’s when many became upset.
The children of Lee County have always been important to me. If KMM can’t pay the rent, as we first discussed, then I need to act and try to find a way to keep the doors open. If our discussion was just a negotiation tactic to keep from shifting funds from other projects, I can respect that.
I hope all can respect that funds have been shifted from the County Budget for this and we have helped fund it and justified it to funding sources with the of goal creating economic development.
If you have heard I plan on putting a bar in there or any of the other rumors, they are wrong. That never even occurred to me till someone mentioned it.
I have great respect for KMM and Reverend Owens. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I respect his love and commitment to the children of our community. I also respect him as a capable businessman who has built a thriving and growing ministry. It is my responsibility to do the same with Lee County. I look forward to working out a solution with KMM that is mutually beneficial.
On the Ambulance front, Estill County is working with and has let us lease an ambulance with the option to buy at the end of the lease. The price is $5000. It is in great shape and will bring our ambulance fleet to five. This weekend one of our paramedics, Trish Cole had a medical scare while on duty, but thankfully it wasn’t life threatening and she plans on being back on duty Friday. A new paramedic has applied for a job along with a couple of EMTs. As our run count shows, 18 since Friday, the team is coming together and jelling. And this is only the beginning.
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