Monday night's meeting of the McCracken County Fiscal Court saw a continued attempt on the governing body's part to pursue better financial practices, particularly dealing with funds it contributes to outside groups or organizations.
Deputy Judge-Executive Steve Doolittle explained the county would not continue to merely distribute funds but would instead enter into service agreement contracts with these groups. He estimates the actual number of these groups who receive funds from the court each year is as low as five -- four of them are associated with youth sports and the fifth is Greater Paducah Economic Development (GPED).
"This is really to protect the county so that we're actually purchasing something in exchange for the public's tax dollars," said Doolittle. "They're usually real simple agreements that are asking the group to do what they've always been doing."
This action is not being taken because of any reported impropriety, Doolittle assured the court, but merely to safeguard the county.
"It wasn't in this last set of audit comments (received in May), which kind of surprised me, because it had showed up in previous ones," the deputy judge-executive said. "If the county doesn't have 'connection and control' (as the state called it) to the group -- say (the court) appointed the group's board members or there was an ordinance or ... some statutory reason for the payment -- this (a service agreement) is a better practice."
Two examples that presented themselves during Monday's meeting were the Lone Oak Youth Baseball/Softball Association and GPED.
The youth sports association's service agreement was tabled to further flesh out the contract. The court approved GPED's quarterly funding request of $62,500, and they will work to approve an agreement that defines what services the county will receive in exchange.
"What I suggest is that we clarify that we as a group of commissioners get economic development consulting from them," said McCracken County Commissioner Eddie Jones. "I personally prefer that each time we approve a $62,000 check to them that we invite them and that they be expected to give a short public presentation to give the public some information as to the state of the economy, how it's looking or not looking, what's worked and what hasn't worked."
This would be an effort at furthering transparency with county and with GPED, agreed Jones and McCracken County Commissioner Bill Bartleman.
"Accountability is very important and I think we can have accountability without micromanaging the organization," Bartleman said.
"I don't have any problem paying the money right now," Jones said. "Glenn Anderson (the interim CEO during GPED's leadership search) has been very helpful and I think he's done a great job communicating with all of us, but I just want to set that expectation clearly that I think the four of us are elected to provide oversight and every now and then that means we need to pick up the phone and have our own conversations with the executive director of GPED. I want to make sure that's in the list of things that we get."
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A new draft of the four-way interlocal agreement between the McCracken County Fiscal Court, the Paducah City Commission and the two potential tourism commissions that would be formed after the dissolution of the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau was discussed.
This plan, proposed by Jones in May, is being pursued in the hopes each commission can levy a transient room tax on the same hotel and motel rooms within city and county limits to generate revenue for use towards tourism purposes in the area.
The document is still in its preliminary stages and a first reading of the agreement, as well an ordinance establishing the augmented transient room tax, is expected to come in August.