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County buys guardrail for state road

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Voegele’s $10,000 executive decision questioned by court

By Tracy Harris

Oldham County magistrates were visibly surprised when they learned the judge-executive spent nearly $10,000 in county funds to install a guardrail on a state road.

And the guardrail doesn’t meet state specifications, according Andrea Clifford, spokesperson for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Judge-Executive David Voegele said at last week’s fiscal court meeting he made an executive decision to install the guardrail because the section of Ky. 393 near the John Black Community Center is known as dangerous.

District 4 Magistrate Steve Greenwell questioned the $9,914 expense as magistrates reviewed last month’s payables.

Voegele said county officials have asked the state for years to post guardrail, including this year, but the state hasn’t made it a priority. However, Ky. 393 is not a county roadway, and Greenwell opposes funding state road repairs with county money.

“I don’t think we can cure all the ills the state has,” Greenwell said. “I’m afraid if we set a precedent of starting to take over what the state will pay for, we’ll be saddled with many more projects in the future.”

Greenwell chairs the roads committee and said the guardrail installment was not brought before the committee.

Voegele said he understands Greenwell’s point, but believes safety concerns are more important than if it is a county or state road. 

At least one serious accident has occurred as a car came around the curve and slid off the embankment. 

“As a rule of thumb, 95 percent (of the time) I’m not for spending money to do the state’s job,” he said.

District 5 Magistrate JD Sparks asked for clarification about when it is appropriate for the judge-executive to make an executive decision.

Sparks said he understands Voegele needs to make decisions in emergency situations. 

Otherwise, projects “should come through committee and go through the normal process,” Sparks said.

Voegele said money for the guardrail came from the general fund and that he made the executive decision to install the
guardrail. 

The county was not required to bid out the project because it is under $20,000, and fiscal court didn’t approve the project because it was technically a purchase, not a contract, Voegele said.

County officials did apply for a permit to install the guardrail, according to Clifford. 

A request had been placed for guardrail installation at that location, she said, and was added to a database that calculates priority based on several factors.

Because there were other higher-priority locations in the county, Clifford said the county was given approval to install the guardrail using its own funds.

But, she said, the guardrail doesn’t meet state specifications, and officials have been told they must be corrected or the state will remove them. 

Clifford said her office has been in contact with Beth Stuber, county engineer, and that Metro Fencing will be returning to make repairs. 

KYTC officials did not establish a deadline for the repairs.

During the guardrail discussion, Voegele also announced more than $200,000 is being reimbursed from the state for projects authorized in 2005.

Voegele said he is unsure what happened, but several cities and counties are receiving refunds. 

“It was through some type of billing error shrouded in previous years,” he said, although he said he’s not sure if blame falls with the county, state or both.

Nearly $42,000 will be reimbursed for Buckner-area projects, and another $171,000 for other unincorporated areas.

Voegele said he doesn’t have a specific plan for the money but it will go into the road fund.

He announced at the Nov. 1 fiscal court meeting that magistrates could propose projects for the money — and magistrates asked how that spending would be determined.

District 7 Magistrate Bob Dye asked if the $200,000 reimbursement would be spent by executive decision like the guardrail.

Voegele said Dye and the magistrates should “bring our needs to the forefront however they come.”

Greenwell said after the meeting that it is likely the funds will go into the general road fund, therefore the committee will review future expenditures.