• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Court agrees to posting GOP caucus banners

The question of whether to install banners at the Woodford County Courthouse before the March 5 GOP Presidential Caucus wasn’t raised until the end of the Woodford Fiscal Court meeting Tuesday night, but it lasted more than a third of the meeting. Arguments for and against posting banners to that effect from Monday, Feb. 29, to the following Saturday lasted 25 minutes. Ironically, the presidential candidate who requested the caucus, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, and agreed to pay for the cost of the state-wide event, recently dropped out of the race. Magistrate Mary Ann Gill (Dist. 7), one of the two Republicans on the court, raised the issue during the announcements portion of the meeting. Judge-Executive John Coyle disagreed with the concept. “I feel like the Republican Caucus that is not state-sanctioned should be treated the same as a regular election, and simply have generic signs that say, ‘Vote here,’” Coyle said. Gill said the county government has been gracious in letting the caucus take place in the courthouse basement, the only local polling place for the event. “If you don’t put ‘Republican Caucus’ and you just put ‘Vote here,’ you’re going to have Democrats and Independents coming in, confused, thinking, ‘Am I supposed to vote today?’ You are not promoting a party, you’re just facilitating a right to vote, and the right to vote is very fundamental and this county government should support that in any way, shape or form …” Gill said. An Oct. 27 meeting of a special Republican Caucus committee of the court led to the court approving the use of the courthouse for the caucus for a fee of $350, to be paid by the GOP. (The caucus will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day, and only registered Woodford County Republicans can take part.) Magistrate Duncan Gardiner (Dist. 6), the other Republican on the court, chaired that committee. A report of the Oct. 27 meeting said the GOP must not use outdoor political or campaign signage on or around the courthouse, “just plain signs indicating Republican Caucus here …” County Attorney Alan George said, “I give our electorate enough credit to know that this is a Republican Caucus in Kentucky. Those persons who are going to come spend the day caucusing know what it is …” Magistrate C.L. Watts (Dist. 2) said he didn’t have a problem with signs outside the courthouse saying “Republican Caucus here” during the preceding week. Gill noted that the committee’s approval of simple signage did not mention the length the signs would be up. A few minutes later, she raised the stakes. “I’ll say this again: This is not promoting a party. This is facilitating the right to vote. And if you refuse to put up the sign, then that could be construed as a suppression of the vote,” Gill said. Gill’s motion to put two banners on the front of the courthouse beginning on Leap Day passed 7 to 0. (Magistrate Linda Popp was absent.) Before adjourning, Coyle quoted former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, saying, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you.” Training, etc. Magistrate Gary Finnell (Dist. 3) made a motion for the court to resume policies on training, overtime, comp time and continuing education set aside during a financial crunch last fall. After several minutes of debate, the motion failed by a 5 to 2 count, with Finnell and Magistrate Ken Reed (Dist. 4) the only yes votes. Farm lease Reed (Dist. 4), chair of the contract and lease committee, asked for a vote on bids for a farm lease on property at the county park. Reed noted that the highest bid (by $1,740) was new, and that the lease allowed the present tenant to remove not only cattle but cattle gates and fencing. He asked Magistrate Jackie Brown (Dist. 8), a farmer, whether a new herd would likely have trouble with new surroundings and possibly tear down fencing there. Brown said there was a good chance they would. Gardiner said he believed the lease should have spelled out such potential problems, which was why he would vote no. Every other member of the court voted yes to renew the annual lease to Fred Lane for $21,630. Griers Creek Bridge County Road Engineer Buan Smith asked the court for the go-ahead to seek funding for an 80/20 state/local grant to replace the Griers Creek Bridge, which was recently downgraded from 15 tons to 3 tons. The motion passed unanimously. Ambulance down Woodford County Ambulance Director Hunter Shewmaker told the court of a Jan. 20 wreck on Midway Road involving the county’s oldest ambulance. Shewmaker said the accident occurred on the crew’s third trip that snowy day to I-64, when a car stopped at the top of a hill. He said the 17-year-old vehicle might be totaled, though he wasn’t sure how much it would be worth, adding that even if it was totaled and not replaced, the county would be in good shape with five ambulances. Jack Jouett House Jack Jouett House Director Janice Clarke told the court of a recent letter from the White House signed by first lady Michelle Obama designating the historic site as a Preserve America Steward. Clarke said the honor was due to ongoing archeological work there, largely run by volunteers, which began in 2014. Clarke recently announced she would leave the post. Later, personnel committee chair Gardiner said the committee met last week and recommended maintaining the director position as a full-time slot, and received unanimous approval to advertise the position.

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