Magistrates reject cleaning plan, approve move

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County will rent space and relocate sheriff’s office

By Molly Haines

The Owen County Fiscal Court met Monday and voted to temporarily move the Owen County Sheriff’s Office.

At the March 10 fiscal court meeting, a representative from the sheriff’s department reported most of their staff had recently suffered “upper respiratory problems.” The  Kentucky Department of Labor previously inspected the entire building where the sheriff’s office is located and reported that no unusual circumstances were found.

However, magistrates Bobby Gaines and Ray Smith, who are on the county’s facilities committee, inspected the upstairs, which is not being used.

Gaines and Smith found birds had been entering the building and there was some speculation that the staff’s illnesses might be related to the bird feces on the second floor. Bids were taken to have the upstairs professionally cleaned.

Larry Goderwis, a local contractor, submitted the lowest bid, which was approximately $5,000 to clean the area during a two-week period. No contract has been signed.

At Monday’s fiscal court, the magistrates voted to temporarily move the sheriff’s office to a building owned by Curtis Sigretto on U.S. 22E. The rent would be $1,000 per month.

Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith said Owen County Sheriff Zemer Hammond and members of the facilities committee came to her and proposed the office be moved.

“It was brought to my attention by the sheriff, Bobby, and Ray that we should not continue on with the plan to hire someone to clean the (building) and the court voted to move the sheriff’s office out of the old jail.”

Keith said she is concerned about the move because of Owen County’s tight budget.

“The people of Owen County need to realize we were poor before the recession started,” Keith said. “Whatever solution we arrive at must be based on the facts and an educated analysis.”

Keith said she was not opposed to the move, but financially concerned.

“This is something that needs to be given great thought,” Keith said. “Essentially, we need to find out what the county can and cannot afford.”

Smith said he felt the county would be throwing away money on the cleanup.

“We were facing spending several thousand dollars to have the sheriff’s office cleaned up,” Smith said. “We really don’t even know if that would solve the problem and if it didn’t we would just be throwing taxpayers’ money away.”

“We’re just trying to do the best we can do,” Smith said. “We don’t want to waste the taxpayers’ money and this is a decision I’ll stand by.”

Hammond said all decisions will need to be made quickly because the sheriff’s department sends tax bills in September and they begin collecting in October.

“It’s going to be hard because we’re so related to the circuit clerk’s office,” Hammond said. “We won’t be right there beside them anymore, but it will put us closer to the schools and that part will be good.”

A special meeting of the fiscal court is scheduled to take place July 28 when the issue will be further discussed.