State Rep. John “Bam” Carney, County Judge Executive Ann Melton and magistrates Joe Rogers and Sammy Baker met at the judge’s office Thursday afternoon to talk about road funds and where those funds should go.
Carney recently received approval for $385,000 of state road money for Adair County, but three of six roads on the list for improvements did not pass an inspection last week.
Carney and Melton had a heated discussion the night before the inspection during a fiscal court meeting, but Thursday’s meeting was much more cordial as everyone agreed the issue needs to be resolved so they can move forward.
While everyone apparently wants to get past the controversy, they did have differing views on how to handle the approved funds, which are referred to as discretionary funds. The job now is to determine how the funds will be spent, and several options were discussed.
For instance, should the roads already approved remain on the list? Of the three roads approved, one road – Marlow Campbell Road – is also on a separate list of roads that will be resurfaced using a different pot of money, state funds referred to as flex funds.
That leaves Piercy Road and Bennett Ridge Road as roads that were previously approved for a combined total of $123,592.
If they remain on the list, how should the remaining funds be divided? Should each remaining magisterial district get an equal share or should it be divided proportionately based on the road miles in the district?
If they start with a clean slate and not include the two approved roads, then how should the money be divided?
Melton said she had talked with five magistrates who were in agreement that they would like to see the funds divided based on the number of road miles in each district.
Carney asked that a fiscal court meeting be held so that all magistrates have a chance to voice their opinion on how the funds should be divided.
Melton said the discretionary funds in the past have been used to help the larger districts. The districts range from 108 miles to 40 miles.
On the other hand, annual flex funds have been split eight ways, equal shares for each magistrate and a share for the judge to spend in whichever district she chooses. That gives the districts the same amount of funds regardless of the number of road miles, except for the projects Melton chooses. She said she has helped all the districts and usually uses her funds to help finish a project where the magistrate’s share is not enough for completion.
“I’ve been very fair. Nobody has been discriminated against except District 7, and you see what he has been getting per mile,” Melton said. District 7, represented by Billy Rowe, has the fewest road miles at 40.37 miles. He has received the most money per mile during Melton’s time in office, according to figures she released.
CONVERSATION STAYS CORDIAL
Very little was said about the cause of the debacle, but Carney did say, “I take some of the blame. Both of us can I think.”
Carney said Cumberland County received $600,000 from the same pot of money and they should work together to try to secure more funds for Adair County.
A brief conversation was held about Joe Tom Grant Road, the majority of which was blacktopped in 2010. Carney had requested funds to resurface an additional three-tenths of a mile, but it was one of the roads kicked off the list.
Melton said the road was done in 2010 because the county had requested a different road and the only way the state would approve that road is if the county also requested Joe Tom Grant.
“They pushed it on us,” Melton said. The chairman of the Democratic party in Adair County, Ben Loy, lives on that road.
Magistrate Sammy Baker said the road passed the inspection in 2010 and he had no problem with resurfacing the additional three-tenths this time. He did not request that it be put on the list, however.
The group held a lengthy discussion about how to divide the money. Carney asked that a public meeting be held and Melton said instead it would only take five minutes to call all of the magistrates.
Carney said he knew that magistrate Daryl Flatt had not been told about their meeting and he was sure Flatt did not want the funds divided based on road mileage. He would like all magistrates to be able to state their position, he said.
“I think that would be fair,” Magistrate Rogers said.
Carney said he believes the two roads already approved should be funded. They should only be taken out if the magistrates for those districts–Rogers and Billy Coffey–agree to put the money back in the pot to be split by all districts. State Commissioner Don Pasley has made it clear that Carney has the last say on how the funds will be disbursed.
Melton expressed some concern about a public meeting, saying the issues are difficult to understand. The press was invited to Thursday’s meeting by Rep. Carney.
The issues are complex. For instance, Bennett Ridge Road has been requested in two different pots of money and the cost of resurfacing differed. There are some questions that have to be answered there, Melton noted.
Baker, however, said he didn’t think it was his decision to make and he showed support for a meeting.
They want to move quickly so that roads can be blacktopped prior to cold weather, but Melton said the roads cannot be approved until the October meeting anyway so they have time for a special called meeting.
She agreed to call a meeting on Friday, Sept. 26 at 4 p.m.
Everyone agreed that there is no simple answer on how to divide road funds.
“It’s going to be hard to find a fair way,” Melton said.
By Sharon Burton