By Sam Terry
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
June 30, 2016
While Governor Matt Bevin is in the process of putting various tax-payer funded entities under the magnifying glass, he needs to turn his focus to South-Central Kentucky, particularly the Barren River Area Development District. For quite some time the pages of our newspapers and others around the state have shared news of dubious actions or inaction by BRADD. It seems to be a good time for Gov. Bevin to cause another shake-up and take over the agency as he did with its counterpart in the Blue Grass region.
The unrest at the BRADD has gone on for several years as evidenced by news reports and off-the-record conversations with those directly involved. What began in 1967 as an effort to encourage cooperation among yoked counties to effectively use program funds has simply lost its way amid power struggles and questionable practices while at times it’s appeared that no one is paying attention.
It hasn’t always been that way. From the beginning, BRADD has been a force in getting good things done in Allen, Barren, Butler, Edmonson, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson, and Warren Counties. With all the good BRADD and the other ADDs have accomplished over nearly 50 years, some of the agencies have flourished in helping the people and communities of Kentucky. Others, unfortunately, have seemingly spiraled out of control.
For quite some time now Warren County and the City of Bowling Green have withheld their dues to BRADD in a struggle over economic and workforce development issues. Three other counties – Allen, Logan, and Simpson – are no longer payer their dues to BRADD either. Currently those four counties don’t contribute their part but they still receive all of the services offered to the dues-paying counties. Obviously, something is wrong.
Late in his administration, former Gov. Steve Beshear was aware of dysfunction within BRADD and called together the leaders of the various counties to strongly encourage them to reunite. The result was a lack-luster resolution passed by some of the respective fiscal courts to support BRADD. Considering that nearly half of the ten counties are not paying dues, it’s apparent that strategy amounted to lip service.
Another signal of unrest is the announcement last week that Barren County Judge / Executive Micheal Hale is resigning as chairman of the Barren River Located Elected Officials group effective July 31. Barren County’s Fiscal Court Clerk, Sherry Jones, has resigned as the group’s secretary. One gets the feeling that both Hale and Jones have had enough of the public and behind the scenes dysfunction of the agency.
Still looming like a dark cloud over BRADD is the order to repay around $87,000 in grant money it improperly paid as staff bonuses, a practice that’s against Kentucky law. So far, BRADD has refused to repay the money to the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), maintaining they were correct to give compensation “adjustments” to some of BRADD’s 51 employees. That amounts to a few thousand nourishing meals that could have been served to Kentuckians in need.
The most recent mind-boggling shenanigans at BRADD involve the announcement days ago that South-Central Kentucky would be losing $558,428.58 in workforce development funds because BRADD had not determined how to spend the money for programs for two years. Kentucky’s Workforce Commissioner Beth Kuhn was adamant that the money could not be rolled over and if the money wasn’t used by June 30, it would be recaptured by the state. There were various excuses about the money needing to be spent in very specific ways and the difficulty of determining how to spend the money. Late last week, BRADD and the South Central Kentucky Workforce Development Board announced that they would get to keep the money for future use after all. At a time when Kentuckians are focused on job creation, job retention, and workforce development, it’s a sad situation when those in charge of such tasks can’t determine a plan to spend money to benefit people.
State Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green has called for Gov. Bevin to take over BRADD just as he recently did with BGADD. There is no question that there are big issues within this agency and others connected to it. DeCesare is correct. It’s time for an intervention on behalf of the tax-payers.