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Lessons in Leadership: Local officials share insights to governing

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By Tyler Bush
and Dallas Stafford
For the News-Herald

Most of us involved in the class of 2012 Leadership Owen County would readily agree that we have learned lots of new things about our county and Government Day was no exception.
Our first stop was the “old courthouse” in downtown Owenton. The magnificent old building was built with slave labor prior to the Civil War in 1857. In fact, the brick was made on-site from Owen County materials. This historic old building has served us well and it will continue to serve us as the offices of our judge-executive, property evaluation administrator and county attorney.
Our visit with Owen County government began with Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith and continued with magistrate Troy Bramblett, county clerk Joan Kincaid, county attorney Josh Smith, jailer Cindy Walker and P.V.A. Jimmy Coyle.
The reoccurring theme throughout their presentations was the increasingly difficult task of balancing the budget.
Like most everyone else, they have experienced the impact of our sluggish economy. Most gave examples of how they improvised and strived daily to do their jobs well with the least expenditure of tax dollars.
Owenton Mayor Horace “Doug” West gave us a brief overview of city government and the work that he and the council have been doing.
They too were experiencing some difficulty in balancing the city budget while maintaining essential services and repairs to infrastructure.
Both the mayor and the county judge-executive were asked if a merger of county and city governments would improve efficiency of local government and stretch our tax dollars.
Both agreed in the affirmative that there is some merit in merging local governments, especially in the areas of administration, facilities, security and safety.
One other major topic of the day was the impact of Kentucky House Bill (HB) 463.
This new law was discussed or mentioned by seven of our speakers during the day-long program. This 14-month old Kentucky law is aimed at saving approximately $420 million dollars over a decade.
This is projected to reduce the number of offenders who would have been incarcerated for drug possession and some cases of drug trafficking.
Under this new law, these offenders will go into the probation/parole system at $2.96 per day, rather than $60 per day to put them in jail.
As of Aug. 15, there are 22,168 people incarcerated in Kentucky jails or prisons at an estimated daily cost of $1,330,080.
During the month of August, the Owen Fiscal Court spent $30,025.79 for incarcerating county inmates.This tremendous cost is breaking the financial backs of county governments as well as state government.
While the new law may have slightly reduced the number of projected inmates as of Aug. 15, there is major public concern about these un-jailed offenders who are roaming free in the streets of our neighborhoods and some are still practicing their old habits.
Some evidence of this is the fact that there is an 80-percent increase in the number of drug cases coming before the courts.
Obviously HB 463 needs some significant revision.
Many thanks to Owen County District Judge Elizabeth Chandler and Commonwealth Attorney Jim Crawford for bringing HB 463 to our attention and informing us of the facts.
State government was well represented during our program.
Our retiring state representative Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge, spent some quality time with us to review the function of a state representative. He also thanked the group for becoming leaders and volunteers. Adams has been a tremendous leader and friend to Owen County while serving us for the past 20 years in the Kentucky State House of Representatives.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, was also with us.
 He has strongly supported Owen County during his term as our state senator. It is very possible that Owen County may be removed from his service due to redistricting. More information on redistricting will be provided as it becomes available.
We were also very delighted to have state representative candidates Brian Linder and Wanda Hammons with us. Each gave a brief introduction outlining their background, education, training and experience needed to fill the vacancy to be created by the retirement of our long-time and much appreciated state representative Royce Adams.
Our soon to be retired circuit clerk Leigh New gave us a tour of the new judicial center.
Leadership Owen County was honored to have been the first official group to tour the new facility. We were very impressed with the beautiful and spacious 33,000 square foot building and the state-of-the-art security system. The approximate cost was $11 million dollars.
“This facility was built for the future, for 100-plus years,” New said.
In fact, the “old courthouse” is 156 years old. The new judicial center is a project of the state of Kentucky, just like numerous centers in other counties throughout the state. Owen County is to be reimbursed for the cost maintenance. However, the county’s cost to maintain the “old courthouse” will go from 68 percent to 100 percent now that the circuit clerk’s office has moved into the new judicial center.
The Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Owen County wish to thank all of the speakers and those responsible for the delicious lunch and the outstanding program. It certainly was a wonderful day.