MURRAY – The Calloway County Fiscal Court voted Wednesday to meet Sheriff Nicky Knight’s request to give the sheriff’s office its 2020 final settlement money back to make it easier for the agency to stay out of debt.

Knight said CCSO gets all its revenue from the taxes it collects in the fall, and any money the office has on hand at the end of the year must be handed over to the fiscal court. He said the money his office received last year from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act helped pay off some its debts, including four new vehicles, and he was making the request so he could keep CCSO’s debts under better control than would normally be possible. For comparison, he said the final settlement figure for 2019 was 27 cents.

The final settlement in excess fees for the calendar year 2020 was $174,408.74. After Knight made the request, the court voted to accept the settlement and then voted to give back the same amount as a contribution to CCSO.

“After the first week that I was in office, I had to borrow $30,000 from (the county) to make payroll that week,” Knight said. “So basically, after that week, it put our total at the sheriff’s office of being $530,000 in debt. With our tax money that we’ve gotten in and the COVID money, I have paid off that $530,000 total. I did not owe anybody anything as of Jan. 1. I also had bought four vehicles to get our vehicles (up to date) and equip them out of that money.

Knight said that since the money CCSO typically borrows from the state for operating expenses hadn’t arrived at the beginning of 2021, he had to borrow another $40,000 for payroll while he was waiting for the state loan to come in.

“Granted, we can’t help the way that things are,” he said. “I think the first of the year – and it is in the budget – I had to come (to the county) and get $40,000 just to make payroll. Again, that’s something we can’t help … because we run off of a calendar year, on Dec. 31, any funds that I have, I have to turn in to the fiscal court. That’s where this $174,408.74 is coming from.

“I’ve spoken with the auditors and a couple of you on the court, and I am respectfully asking that you give me a contribution of that $174,408.74 back. I’m trying to work us out of a hole. I don’t like working on borrowed money all the time. Even though it’s interest-free money, I don’t like making my payroll off of borrowed money, and so on and so forth. We have to borrow $300,000 from the state every year, and that’s the money that we operate on basically from January until we start collecting taxes, whether it be in October or November. Then when November rolls around, I have basically a month or so to spend what money I have, whether it be to make a car purchase or whatever. If I realize I do have the money, I have to turn around and find the car. The car may not be here until July of the next year, so I don’t have the money in July to pay for it.

“So, respectfully, I would ask for this money to come back to me. I will do my best to return that next year and hopefully more, and eventually try to get out of having to borrow that $300,000 from the state.” 

Knight said the debt was not the fault of former Sheriff Sam Steger, but that the additional COVID-19 relief funds were an opportunity to pay for items CCSO needs without having to borrow as much in 2021 prior to the year’s taxes being collected this fall.

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The court voted to approve a statement of affiliation for Calloway County Fire-Rescue. Calloway County Emergency Management Director Chesley Thomas said the purpose of the document was to establish and grant a local charter of authorization for CCFR and the Calloway County government. He explained that while fire suppression is already covered by fire protection boards, Kentucky statute requires counties to formally designate the responsibilities an affiliated agency has in regard to search and rescue and other related duties.

Duties listed in the agreement include searching for lost, trapped or missing persons; light duty rescue; extrication of trapped persons; low angle rescue and recovery operations; water search and rescue missions; hazardous material spills/releases; trench rescue; grain bin/confined space rescue; farm equipment/heavy equipment rescue; high angle rescue and building collapse. 

The agreement also states that when dispatched, CCFR would respond and assist other agencies and departments, following National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidelines, but not take the lead role in missions such as: vehicular accidents; weather spotting; crowd, vehicle and roadway control to assist in public safety; bomb threats and weapons of mass destruction attacks; debris removal; emergency medical services support and damage assessment.

Thomas said the statement of affiliation is renewed each year and sometimes updated. He said there had not been any lapse in coverage because the statement says the old agreement stays in place until a new one is signed.

In other business:

• The court voted to approve a budget amendment to include $449,750.99 in CARES Act funds.

• The court voted to appoint Shawn Reynolds to fill the unexpired term of Ed Davis on the Murray-Calloway County Public Hospital Corporation Board of Trustees. The term will expire March 31, 2022.

• The court voted to reappoint Amy Futrell to the hospital board for a term expiring March 31, 2025. Judge-Executive Kenny Imes said she had recently finished Tony Page’s unexpired term.