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THIS SERIES: A look back at accomplishments for the county and cities, and a look to what may be priorities in 2013.
NEXT: Mayor Tim Walker’s forecast for Elizabethtown.
COMING TUESDAY: The 10 biggest 2012 stories in Hardin County.
Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry recognizes it is hard to hold one’s place at the summit, but like a consistent sports team, he believes the county will hold its own in the “top tier” through 2013, standing strong on employment and economic development.
Berry said Hardin County government will have several questions to answer in the new year as it looks to upgrade its infrastructure and office space and assist Hardin Memorial Health in development of a multi-year master facilities plan that could start rolling out before winter ends.
Berry believes the county’s revenues will exceed expenditures once the fiscal cycle wraps up in June, which would follow a fiscal year that allowed the county to put roughly $250,000 into general fund reserves and another $250,000 into E-911 reserves for improvements.
The county has budgeted $3 million for construction of a new E-911 center, a fourth EMS station on the south side of the county and design work for a new county government center.
Berry predicted work will commence on the EMS station and E-911 center during the year and more movement should emerge on the county government center.
Hardin Fiscal Court commissioned an office space analysis by Elizabethtown-based ICON Engineering & Inspection Services to determine how much space would be needed in a centralized government complex. ICON proposed a gross square footage of 59,065 to accommodate 10 county departments, which likely would cost $12 million to $14 million based on current rates per square feet.
Berry said Fiscal Court must decide whether a new facility is a major priority. Should it move ahead, the county must select a site and consider the sources available to fund its construction, Berry said.
“Before you get too far on design, it has to be site-specific,” Berry said. County property at the intersection of Ring and Rineyville roads has been discussed in the past, but nothing has been finalized.
The county also has other questions to ponder, he said. Should the E-911 center be integrated into the new complex and should it be built in phases? Could the E-911 center serve as the first phase?
Furthermore, the county may choose to favor the approach recommended by ICON of constructing a single, multi-story complex or may spread the facility across a campus setting with multiple buildings.
“The funding will likely determine how it is done,” Berry said.
Other concerns on Berry’s radar may crop up in the upcoming session of the Kentucky General Assembly, where he expects the state’s retirement system to be scrutinized because of its role in the state’s debt. The changes recommended, he said, are likely to have an impact on counties across the state. Likewise, Berry is curious about the potential for tax reform and its impact on services, he said.
“We’re going to keep our eyes on that to see what could help local governments,” Berry said.
On a related note, Berry said he also is closely watching negotiations between President Barack Obama and Congress regarding the country’s “fiscal cliff.” Without a resolution by year’s end, across-the-board spending cuts and tax hikes automatically kick in, which Berry said could affect investment and slow economic development. Likewise, deep spending cuts could lead to a reduction in programs, which could potentially limit the amount of federal aid the state receives. That, in turn, would trickle down to counties and cities that depend on state aid to offset some expenses.
“Those issues would impact our community like ... other communities,” he said.
But Berry declined to speculate on what unemployment rates or economic factors the county may face in the year, choosing instead to trust in positive indicators that emerged in 2012.
Berry pointed to the number of Base Realignment and Closure construction projects in progress or complete, including the Elizabethtown to Radcliff Connector road and the extension of Ky. 313 to U.S. 60. Berry also pointed to the widening of North Miles Street in Elizabethtown as an example of growth and success.
County government made progress in 2012, improving the number of well fields available at Pearl Hollow Landfill to operate its methane gas collection program and operating the first full year of carbon credit sales, which reaped more than $100,000 in revenue.
The Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Hardin and LaRue counties, also received more high marks during 2012, notching another top-five ranking out of 366 MSAs for personal income growth by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The MSA also finished top in the state in total population growth this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and was named a “leading location” by Area Development Magazine, which included a top five spot in the 20 southern cities ranked for economic and job growth.
Berry said these rankings are not accidental and should be maintained as 2013 progresses.
“I would see those indicators continue to be favorable,” he said.
Marty Finleycan be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.