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Fiscal court meetings called into question

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Keith says magistrates should meet twice a month

By Molly Haines

A concerned citizen came before the Owen County Fiscal Court at its Sept. 8 meeting questioning the special meetings being held by the court.

Mary Lou Morrison said she would like to be notified of special meetings and suggested using the emergency calling system to notify those who wish to attend special meetings.

Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith said she has been pushing for two meetings a month since taking office in January.

“I had mentioned earlier about having two meetings a month,” Keith said. “We cannot technically pay a bill or do anything without it being court-approved. It was brought up but a vote was never taken. I cannot speak for the magistrates, but each of them indicated to me that they were opposed to having two meetings a month.”

Keith said having two meetings a month would cut down on the number of special meetings called.

During the meeting, magistrate Ray Smith said he agreed that special meetings need to be better advertised.

“You’re absolutely right about the public,” Smith said. “They think we’re slipping stuff past them when we have these special meetings.”

Smith said he opposes the idea of holding two meetings a month.

“The way I see it most of the things we have a special meeting for could have waited or should have already been taken care of,” Smith said.

Magistrate Teresa Davis said she is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the county’s business is taken care of.

“I’m kind of up in the air about it,” Davis said. “But whatever they decide to do is fine with me. We have to do whatever we have to do.”

Magistrate Bobby Gaines said he has been a magistrate for 16 years and the county has been able to conduct business during that time on one meeting a month.

“I’m really not for it,” Gaines said. “I do realize that special meetings have to be held but to an extent. I think a lot of it can wait.”

Members of the fiscal court were given information on the special tax districts’ rates that have recently been set.

Smith said he opposed the library tax rate increase, and although the fiscal court has no say in special district rates, it does appoint the library’s board members.

“The library, they just walk up and say here it is,” Smith said. “They’re talking about putting up a new building and I think what we have out here now is just wonderful.”

Smith said he also opposes the school district tax increase.

“The school is out of control,” Smith said. “They’re burning the candle at both ends out there digging in the ground and shoving dirt. They’re just taxing people as they wish.”

Keith said she thinks the library and schools are doing everything they can to educate the county’s residents.

“We desperately need to educate our public to get good-paying jobs,” Keith said.

All taxing districts, except for the soil conservation district, are separate entities, Keith said.

“The school board (members) are all elected officials just as the fiscal court is,” Keith said. “They are doing what they feel is best for the county. I feel it is not part of our duties as the fiscal court to be making a public comment on a decision being made by a special taxing district at this time. The basis for my opinion is that I do not have all of the information that they may have available.”

Smith said that he is often questioned about the special tax districts and was speaking on behalf of those he works for.

“I just feel like they’re out of control and I want the county to know that I feel that way,” Smith said.