by Jeff Neal
Although Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock missed yesterday’s fiscal court meeting due to illness, he certainly made his presence known.
In a letter penned from his hospital bed and relayed to court by deputy judge Rita Curry, Bullock called Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler’s plan to grab 60 percent of the occupational tax funds “an all-out attack on every citizen in Pulaski County, including those residing within the city limits.”
“By using occupational tax funds to provide and maintain essential services, our fiscal court has been able to keep our property tax at one of the lowest in the state,” Bullock said in his statement. “If the Mayor proceeds, everyone will suffer major losses of essential services — 911, EMS, the Pulaski Detention Center, sheriff’s services, road maintenance, animal control and the Pulaski Fire Commission.”
Girdler’s plan calls for the city to take 60 percent of the occupational tax pool — a whopping $7 million — beginning in the summer of 2014.
“Mayor Girdler recently announced that the City of Somerset is one of the most affluent cities in the state ... now he wants to take the largest source of revenue that Pulaski County has,” Bullock said. “I am at a loss to see how the mayor can think the city can prosper and grow if the county falls apart from lack of funding.
“We will continue to fight this move by Mayor Girdler so we can continue to serve each citizen of Pulaski County and provide them with essential services,” Bullock added. “It will be a sad day for Pulaski County if the mayor succeeds; we will not give up the battle.”
The county’s plight has not gone unnoticed by several city councilors. Five councilors have told the Commonwealth Journal they will move to have the city’s occupational tax ordinance rescinded.
“We applaud the city council members who have stood up for the people of Pulaski County, which includes city residents as well as their friends and family who do not live in the city,” Bullock said. “You have done the right thing and stood up for the people who elected you to office and we thank you for that.”
Girdler and county officials have accused each other of not wanting to negotiate solutions to inter-government squabbles in good faith. Bullock said the county is ready to “sit down and work this out.”
“The city is essential to the success of the county and we never forget that ... but we must work together in harmony so that the needs of all of our citizens can be met,” Bullock said. “We would like to issue an invitation to Mayor Girdler and the council members to meet together and see what all of us can do to ensure a continuation of services; and see how we can grow together.”
Bullock is expected to be hospitalized for a couple more days. He is suffering from acute diverticulitis with a small ulceration. The judge said oral antibiotics were not clearing up the condition fast enough and his doctor recommended hospitalization so he could receive stronger antibiotics intravenously.
“I’m doing great and feeling fine except for the fact that they have restricted my diet and I’d rather be eating some home cooking,” Bullock said. “I have a great staff — they are in and out of here and on the phone with me every day so I’m fully aware of what is going on.
“I should be out of here in a couple of days and I’m looking forward to being back in the office rather than what I’m calling my ‘satellite’ office,” Bullock added. “Today will be the first fiscal court meeting I’ve missed since becoming judge-executive and I really hate to miss it.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their concern and especially for their prayers, which are always desired and appreciated,” Bullock said.
In other news from fiscal court:
• Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson and magistrate Mike Strunk agreed to work with Bronston resident Paula Gibson to clear up a problem she was having with the Bronston Fire Department.
Gibson said a new culvert had been draining water from the fire department onto her property.
• Magistrates approved the second reading of changes to the tourism ordinance. The changes allow the implementation of penalties relating to non-payment of transient taxes.
• Strehl Construction of Somerset and D.W. Wilburn of Lexington have both put in bids to construct the new senior citizens center. According to architect Jerry Taylor, both companies came in under the budgeted $1.9 million allotted for the facility.
Recommendations for construction, and also for a special inspector to oversee the project, should come at the next fiscal court meeting.
• Unified Technologies has placed a bid for a new county telephone system. The price tag is a little over $121,300.
The system will provide service to the courthouse offices, PVA, the animal shelter, the road department, solid waste and the public safety office.
• Senior magistrate Mike Wilson presided over the meeting in Bullock’s absence, while assistant county attorney Greg Ousley filled in for county attorney Martin Hatfield.