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HomeLocal NewsLocal Government Fiscal court plans demolition of old jail

 Fiscal court plans demolition of old jail

Approves plan for unclaimed human remains

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 Carter County fiscal court took the next steps towards demolition of the old jail building in their regular meeting on Monday night, accepting an 86-page report from Howerton Engineering detailing their recommendations for safely bringing the building down. 

While it isn’t feasible to save and refurbish the building, which is in a state of advanced disrepair, the county does plan to salvage the stone and other historical elements from the building. But it isn’t the salvaging of historical items that offers the biggest challenge to the county, it’s how to safely bring the building down in such a tight space, without damaging the attached courthouse or surrounding buildings. 

Luckily for the county, Howerton has recommendations for doing just that. 

“There’s stuff in there I never considered,” said Judge Executive Mike Malone, explaining that because of the materials used in the building and the tight workspace, the process will be very involved for whoever is awarded the demolition contract.

While the county could have begun soliciting bids for the demolition as soon as January 19 if they’d approved a plan on Monday evening, because of the length of the report from the engineering firm, Malone suggested revisiting the issue in a special session in two weeks. This, he said, would give the magistrates time to look over the report and familiarize themselves with the recommendations. 

While there was agreement among magistrates that something needs to be done with the building, they still lamented the loss of the historic structure, and discussed ways to preserve as many of the historic elements as possible. 

For instance, some of the old jail bars may be reutilized in the road department, for securing equipment. While there was some discussion of selling any unused bars and doors for scrap metal, magistrate Donnie Oppenheimer expressed some concern with that idea. 

“It would be a shame to destroy them, because of their historical value,” Oppenheimer said. 

Malone responded that scrapping the metal bars from the old jail cells was simply one possibility, but not something the county would be required to do.

He said the bars could be stored, along with the stone, at the county garage. 

That is what they already plan to do with the stone from the building. Malone explained that it will be stored at the county garage until they determine how much of the material the county wants to use, and what projects they want to use it on. Then they could sell off any surplus material. 

Stone saved for county usage could be used to construct the façade of the new E911 dispatch office, as a bank reinforcement for elevating and leveling land for extra parking space, or as material for a base or display area for the refurbished doughboy once repairs to the statue are complete, Malone said.

In other action the court accepted the sheriff’s quarterly and annual reports from Sheriff Jeff May, which indicate that a little over $39,000 will be returned to the county from taxes collected by the sheriff’s office. 

The court also moved to accept the treasurer’s report, to approve claims and transfers, and to hear department reports. 

The court also discussed developing a policy for unclaimed remains. Though it hasn’t been a pressing issue for the county in recent years, they were recently informed that the county was responsible for any unclaimed remains outside the county when a county resident passed away in a hospital and next of kin could not be located, or were unwilling or unable to take possession of the body. 

This news came as the county was experiencing a sudden uptick in unclaimed remains – the first from an elderly man who was transported from a local nursing home to the UK Medical Center, where he passed away. 

Then, while working that issue, Malone said, the county got notice that a second body had gone unclaimed by family – this time in Frankfort.

“We hadn’t had one in seven years,” explained County Attorney Brian Bayes. “Then we had two (back-to-back).” 

Malone said while the county may not have any more remains they need to take responsibility for right away, it would pay to be prepared should the situation arise again. 

Malone said one thing he thought any policy should include is a stipulation requiring all cremated remains by interred at a “perpetual care cemetery.” 

That, he said, would make it easier to guarantee remains were preserved if family showed up in the future to claim them. It would also make it easier to locate where they were buried, as perpetual care cemeteries record the exact locations of each burial. 

More importantly, though, magistrate Morris Shearer added, it “provides a little more dignity” for the deceased. 

Council voted four to zero to solicit bids for the cremation and disposal of unclaimed remains – with Malone and Huddle abstaining. 

During the public comment period the county heard once again from a former jail employee who is seeking his share of a bonus awarded for first responders who worked during the pandemic. They had previously chosen to award him the funds for the time he spent working during the public health emergency. That ordinance, however, mistakenly granted the employee the bonus because he retired. In actuality, though, he had resigned. 

The problem with that, the county attorney explained, was that it would set a precedent that might open the door to claims from other employees who left during the pandemic. The court moved to revisit that issue in two weeks, during their special session. 

In other public comments, a resident along Avis Road, in Iron Hill, told the court he had called his magistrate and complained about the poor state of the road, but no action was ever taken. 

Another county resident, this one from Cattleman Lane, asked the county about progress made on bringing the end of his road into the county road system. 

The court promised to revisit both issues during their special meeting in two weeks and – if all conditions are met – to take Cattlemen Lane into the county road system. 

The court also heard a report on Vincent Road, and moved to begin the process of removing a portion of the road from the county system. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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