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County seeks up to $5 million credit line: Funds and interest would be reimbursed by FEMA

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 The Carter County Fiscal Court has a problem on their hands. The bills for cleanup costs and repairs related to the ice storm will be coming due before the FEMA reimbursements reach the county. So will bills for the flooding and rain related slides that followed. It’s a problem that has frustrated the county for some time, but one with really big implications with the extent of recent damage.

Judge executive Mike Malone came to the court last Tuesday with a recommendation to secure a $1.5 million line of credit with Kaco to cover that gap. But by the time they were finished with discussions, magistrate Chris Huddle made a motion to seek up to a $5 million line of credit, which council voted to approve. 

“We’re only charged for what we borrow,” Huddle noted, and since the county will be reimbursed for all of those costs through FEMA – including interests charges on funds they borrow – he couldn’t see any reason not to seek a higher amount. Any spending from the line of credit would also have to be approved by fiscal court first, 

In addition to repairs, money from the line of credit could also be used to begin flood mitigation projects covered by FEMA grants. 

The county currently has several such projects in the planning phase, thanks to the efforts of FEMA grant advisor Laurel Matula. Malone said it would have been much more difficult for the county to manage the cleanup, and the reimbursement for the cleanup, without Matula’s efforts. Malone explained that Carter was among the worst hit counties during the ice storm, with more than 30,000 trees that were fully or partially down and in need of cutting. Around 12,000 of those trees were cut by the county’s cleanup contractor Southern Disaster Recovery (SDR), Malone said, with another 20,000 cut by volunteers across the county, helping get roadways passable again. The contractor had hauled out over 140,000 cubic yards of branches and material, he said. 

“For comparison, an average washing machine is one cubic yard,” Malone explained. 

Once those were broken down and burned, he said, SDR delivered 4,600 truckloads of debris and ashes to landfills. 

Each branch, twig, and truckload had to be thoroughly documented as part of the FEMA process, otherwise the county will not be reimbursed – and the contractors can’t be paid. Contractors were aware of this, and thoroughly documented their work. But it all needs to be put together for FEMA. This, again, is where Matula’s services have been invaluable, Malone said. 

Without the FEMA grants, or with significant delays in the grants – the county is already waiting on money that has been released by FEMA but is waiting in Frankfort for dispersal – the county simply couldn’t afford to pay for all of the cleanup and repair needs, Malone explained. 

In other action, the court moved to approve claims and transfers, read a rent agreement with the county attorney into the meeting minutes, approved a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet resolution for road aid, and set property tax rates for the coming year. 

The court took the compensating rate, which raises their tax rate by 0.1 cent per $100 of valuation. Tax rates will now by 7.6 cents per $100 for real and personal properties. The increase is expected to give the county approximately $20,000 in additional tax revenue. 

Malone recommended accepting the compensating rate, telling the court that while the slight increase “won’t begin to (fully) address” the county’s needs, it will add to what they are able to do. The maximum amount the county could have raised the rate was 7.9 cents, but that would have required a public hearing. Property tax rates that counties and municipalities can charge are set by the state. 

The court approved $18,000 in ARPA funding for the Carter County Public Library, for revenue losses related to COVID-19. The court had initially approved up to $25,000 in payments, but when totals were tallied the library showed allowed losses of $18,000. 

The court also adopted approved the lease of trucks and equipment for the road department, including three tri-axle trucks, one road tractor, one rollback, and three single axle trucks. 

In other road news the county approved a 30-day loan for the purchase of the new road department property. The loan will be for $485,000. After 30 days the loan will be rolled over into a longer term loan. The county has already paid $15,000 of the total purchase price. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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