By: Jeremy D. WellsCarter County Times
Whether it’s jail income being down because of the virus, or strategies for increasing access to vaccination, it hardly seems like a government meeting can go by without some discussion of COVID-19.
Fiscal court opened their meeting on Monday by approving the treasurer’s report and approving claims and transfers. This included the transfer of $100,000 into the jail fund to cover costs until the jail’s expected funds come in. Once that money is received, Carter County Treasurer Beth Justice explained, the money will be used to repay the transfer.
Judge Executive Mike Malone told the court that the jail has only received 42 percent of what they should have received in payments.
“The majority is yet to come,” Malone said.
The Carter County Detention Center, typically the most profitable and self sufficient of the county departments, has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only is the housing of federal inmates down, costing the jail a previously steady and reliable source of income, but so is the housing of state inmates after several were removed from the facility due to a coronavirus outbreak in the jail.
Jailer R.W. Boggs told the court that income from housing federal inmates was down around 30 percent because of the pandemic. While the county population was also down, which has helped keep costs down Boggs explained, it’s not enough to offset the lost income. Boggs said they are continuing to look at taking advantage of other cost savings and looking at other revenue streams where possible. But mostly, he said, the jail is “belt tightening” and will “do what we can,” to weather the storm.
Magistrates also moved to approve budget amendments, which reflect changes to the budget resulting from money gained from CARES Act funds, FEMA funds, income from surplus sales, and other revenue streams.
Council also approved the expenditure of $6,000 for E911 mapping, with the funds to be repaid from grants that are made available to the 911 dispatch only after the initial expenditure is approved and paid for.
“This grant will bring our maps (up to the standards of the) new generation of 911 compliance required by the state 911 board,” E911 director Joe Lambert told the court.
Lambert and Malone also discussed other cost saving measures that the E911 director is looking into. Lambert said 911 is currently paying, “around $2,200 to $2,400 a month,” for three dedicated fax data lines at the Grahn, Carter City and Hitchins Fire Departments. This is after Lambert found and terminated other unused land lines. Those lines are no longer necessary, Lambert explained, because “all our reports are now sent with the new CAD system. We no longer fax.”
Malone said one thing the county may look at doing for the service is purchasing cell signal boosters that would make it easier to send and receive phone calls and data from the departments with smart phones. He said the 911 Board would need to make the decision on terminating the land lines and make the request for the cell boosters, but that he would recommend the court support the move if it was requested.
Malone also discussed the local roll out of the coronavirus vaccines and claimed that the bureaucracy and oversight of the state agencies in Frankfort was slowing efforts to vaccinate individuals locally.
One of the most frustrating aspects, Malone said, was that the state would only release 100 doses of the vaccine at a time to the health department. He said this wasn’t enough to quickly move through the population of the county.
“That’s just a drip-drip for 27,000 people,” Malone said.
He said that Frankfort was looking for locations for regional drive-in vaccination clinics, and that Grayson City Councilman and IKORCC carpenter and millwright union representative Jerry Yates had suggested using the union property for the location of a regional drive-in clinic. The union property, located at the end of a frontage road in East Park, meets the state requirements for an indoor area that includes restrooms for those staffing the drive-in clinics. It also meets another requirement that the location can’t impede traffic flow to other area businesses.
“You could have a three quarter mile line and not hurt anyone,” Malone said of the union hall property.
Malone said he was reaching out to Frankfort to offer the location as one of the regional drive-in clinics, which could greatly expedite the vaccination roll-out in the county.
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