Monday, April 20, 2009

City officials say county left them no choice but to approve emergency-management agreement

By Tilly Finley and Meg Quigley
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

At tonight's City Council meeting, council members and Mayor Tom Bozarth were forced to make a decision that none of them found appealing.

On a 3-2 vote, with Bozarth breaking a tie, the council voted to accept the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement with Woodford County and the City of Versailles to establish a countywide disaster emergency preparedness, response and recovery program.

The council's concerns were political and monetary. Bozarth said the two cities should have a say in appointment of the joint emergency-management director, and Council Member Sharon Turner noted, among other things, that money paid by Midway would buy equipment the county would own. “We had fair questions that were asked and not addressed,” she said.

Because the state requires the city to have an emergency director, which would be more expensive than sharing one, and since County Judge-Executive John Coyle had refused to change the proposed agreement, Bozarth said, "We don't have any choice." The proposed city budget for next year, distributed at the meeting, includes $6,480 for the city's share of the director's pay, based on $4 per person counted in the 2000 census.

County Emergency Management Director Keith Slugantz, who presented the agreement to the council, said the city "will have a say in the appoinment" of the joint director, but Bozarth said the actual appointment would be made by the county. He said the disagreement had nothing to do with Slugantz, but told him, "You know how politics are. Politics change." County and city offices are on next year's ballots.

Bozarth made clear to Slugantz that the city would pay its part on a monthly basis, and only if invoiced by the county. “We have had some issues in the past and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” the mayor said.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton made the motion to accept the agreement. Doris Leigh joined him in voting yes, while Turner and Diana Queen voted no. Soon after Bozarth broke the tie, Council Member Sandra Cooke arrived. She said in an interview, “Out of necessity, I would have voted yes. ... Right now we have no other option.”

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