It was a game of he-said, she-said during Wednesday’s Clark County Fiscal Court meeting when commissioners said they didn’t receive enough information beforehand concerning a visit from a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet representative at the last meeting.
Because of this, the vote they made to keep $195,000 in rural secondary road funds from the state to resurface Gay Evans and Pretty Run roads was an uninformed one, they said. They could have either voted to keep those funds for county road projects, or to give them to the state for state road projects within the county.
At the April 11 meeting, Transportation Cabinet representative Bret Blair told commissioners he wanted a decision that day. He recommended that if the court were going to give the money back to the state, that it be used to resurface Becknerville Road.
Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said at the time that after he and Clark County Road Supervisor Kevin Wilson reviewed the county road plan, they thought Gay Evans and Pretty Run roads were in greater need of resurfacing.
Commissioner Vanessa Rogers made the motion to accept Branham’s recommendation, and Commissioner JoEllen Reed seconded. Commissioner Rick Smith opposed the motion, because he thought the money should be used to resurface Becknerville Road.
Wednesday, commissioners said since the last meeting, they had driven Pretty Run, Gay Evans and Becknerville roads, and they thought Gay Evans Road, then Becknerville Road were most in need of resurfacing. They ranked Pretty Run Road as the last one needing resurfacing.
“We voted without knowing which roads we were going to be voting on,” said Rogers. “I went out and drove them, and I think the roads out of the three we were discussing need to be changed.”
Reed said she wanted to apologize to the residents of Clark County for making an uninformed decision.
“The other thing I didn’t like is when the state came in and told us we had to make a decision that very day,” Reed said. “And we had no knowledge of that, and that is to me, I don’t like to operate that way. And so I’m personally apologizing to the community for making a decision that day that I was uninformed (to make) and shouldn’t have made.”
Branham, responding to Reed and Rogers, said he had invited all the commissioners by email to a meeting in Lexington with transportation officials at the end of March, but none had responded. He said of their comments, “There was a direct implication there that I misled you.” At the meeting with transportation officials, “that’s when we discussed what we were going to do and what they were going to present to us,” he said.
“And I don’t mean to be rude, but I can’t spoon feed you all,” Branham said. “We’ve got certain things we’ve got to do, so when you see that (the email), at least call somebody and ask ‘Do I need to attend this? What are we going to do?’ Give us some questions. You know to simply sit and say ‘Well I didn’t know, I didn’t know,’ that goes along for a while, but eventually you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to do the job that you’ve been elected to do.”
At an April 10 budget workshop, Reed said Wilson told commissioners he had “a surprise” for them and they would find out what it was the next day. The surprise he was referring to ended up being the road funds.
“If he would’ve just let us know what it was, we could’ve all gone out and driven those roads and made an informed decision,” Smith said.
In an interview after Wednesday’s meeting, Wilson said if commissioners had asked him more about what the surprise was, he would have told them.
“But they didn’t bother to elaborate on it, so I didn’t either,” he said.
At the meeting Wednesday, Wilson told commissioners he hadn’t had any contact with them other than the occasional email.
“And when we scheduled this meeting with District 7 (transportation officials), this was ... maybe a month before,” he said. “We sat down ... and agonized over this and went over what we were going to do, what they were proposing to do, and we spent many hours discussing this.”
Branham said if commissioners were unable to attend that meeting, they should have called him or Wilson to find out what was discussed.
“To bring things up like this and act like there’s improprieties going on in the county government, that makes us all look bad,” he said.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Reed said she was surprised by Branham’s reaction to commissioners’ comments and by the controversy at the meeting.