A group of concerned residents is trying to garner public support for a plan that could return the Clark County Fiscal Court to its previous seven-magistrate format.
Former magistrate Joe McCord and his wife, Sheila, are among 10 community members trying to raise awareness about the issue, contending that three commissioners cannot adequately represent the entire county.
“It’s too much territory for one person to cover and their constituents to feel comfortable calling them,” Sheila McCord said.
The group will meet at 6 p.m. today at the Winchester Elks Lodge to count signatures and discuss the issue. According to state law, the issue can be put back on the ballot if 1,200 signatures are collected before the second Tuesday in August. The McCords said they are uncertain how many signatures are still needed.
“We’ll see how hard we have to work between now and the second Tuesday in August,” Joe McCord said.
If the county does revert to the magistrate format, Joe McCord said he will not seek his old position.
The Fiscal Court began operating as a three-member commission in January 2011, after a petition put the issue on the ballot in 2006. The seven-member court elected that year was allowed to serve a four-year term before the commissioner format took effect. Two former magistrates, Vanessa Rogers and Rick Smith, were voted onto the new court.
Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham said he “could see a lot of rationale” in reverting to the old format, though he declined to say for the record which format he prefers.
“I have heard this over the last couple years from folks in the community. There’s a lot of concern over the way the court structure is now,” Branham said.
He did, however, acknowledge that the new format saves the county money.
Current county commissioners make $843.91 per month, plus $300 for expenses, about $100 more than the magistrates.
The salary was set by the seven-member court in 2010.
If the county returned to the magistrate format, the sitting commission would vote on a salary for successors.
The McCords and other supporters of the magistrate format say they fear salaries will continue to climb, reducing any savings the county is currently seeing.
The petitioners hope the public will become more educated about the issue and, if it makes the ballot in November, will have a clearer understanding of what they are voting for.
“The wording on the ballot confused people,” Sheila McCord said.
Branham said he also has heard voters say they didn’t understand what they were voting for.
Petitioner Mike Irwin said he believes many people completely missed the question because of the placement on the ballot.
“As county judge, I’ve tried to travel a lot through the community and be very visible. In the eastern and rural parts of the community, I’ve noticed they will voluntarily say they feel they do not have representation,” Branham said.
Current court members have not expressed an opinion on the issue, Branham said, but Sheila McCord said commissioner Rick Smith has signed the petition.