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Court seeks EDA financial info

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Appointment made to fill EDA board vacancy

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Bullitt County Economic Development Agency is back up to full strength.

However, that doesn’t mean that the county judge still doesn’t have some questions about the agency.

With her original nominee to fill the vacancy not having the support of Bullitt Fiscal Court, County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts changed in mid-stream on Tuesday.

Roberts recommended long-time real estate agent and appraiser Ruth Sohm to the EDA board.

That received the unanimous support of the court members.

Originally, Roberts had placed Debby Carter’s name into consideration for the vacancy created by the end of a term for Bob Hill.

Carter went through the Bullitt County Ethics Commission after a question was raised over litigation her company, Truck America Training, has been involved with for over eight years with the city of Hillview.

The commission found no conflict of interest in that situation.

Ethics board member Greg Cochran said the agency’s decision had nothing to do with whether Carter should be approved. Instead, it only dealt with whether any conflict was present.

Another ethics board member Bob Combest said that despite some impressions, he was not a rubber stamp for the county judge.

“We’ve had too much rubber stamping,” said Roberts.

She said her administration had been the most transparent with the most honest leadership for the county that’s she’s seen in her lifetime.

In making the recommendation to appoint Sohm, court members had no votes to defeat the measure.

Sohm said she didn’t know a lot about EDA but she did have 50 years in the real estate business.

With no axe to grind, Sohm said she was proud to be in the county.

Roberts thanked Carter for being part of the process and for being willing to serve.

Frank Ragg of Lebanon Junction, who is currently the EDA board chair, was also reappointed for another term.

Following the conclusion of that issue, magistrate Ruthie Ashbaugh had another concern.

She requested county attorney Monica Robinson research the bylaws and financial records for the past 10 years.

Ashbaugh said the judge has asked for the records over the past years but had never received them.

She said there is a need to see where the $100,000 appropriated by the county is accountable.

Roberts said EDA members Happy Cahoe and Ragg did meet with her on Monday and provided some of the information she had been requesting.

Robinson said she would make sure the magistrates got the information they requested.

However, Fouts said that the county judge’s office does get the information it has requested. He said there is an annual budget submitted and he also gives her financial statements.

The agency just recently completed an audit, which was submitted.

“I always try to keep the judge informed,” said Fouts.

He was a bit surprised by her recent comments about the lack of communication with the EDA board, especially since she is often in attendance or has a representative in her place.

To make sure she is aware of the meetings, Fouts said he dropped off a list of future dates.

Fouts admits there might be some confusion because EDA is not a true county department. It does receive funding annually from the county, as well as other entities, such as the cities and local businesses.

The EDA board hires the director and compensation includes a base salary of just over $60,000, with other incentives.

The biggest concern over the last issue over the appointment is the message that it sends to prospective businesses where there is fighting among leaders and various entities.

“They look at everything,” said Fouts. “They’re concerned about everything that happens. They read. They want to understand what situations they are getting into.”

During the normal process, companies will have a large pool of prospective sites and then begin to narrow the search. In most situations, there are two or three communities in a state and most companies are looking in two or three states.

“It’s a matter of elimination,” said Fouts. “It’s the last community standing.”

During the most recent EDA meeting, Fouts mentioned a company was looking for a rail site and would bring in hundreds of manufacturing jobs. However, due to litigation on the property, Bullitt County was eliminated.

With the aggressiveness shown by most states to land more jobs, Fouts said it is very competitive.