One Knox asks Radcliff council to remain funding partner

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City's fiscal obligation would shrink as federal grant is slashed

By Marty Finley

One Knox officials on Monday asked Radcliff City Council to continue funding the agency in the 2012-13 fiscal year, the final year of a federal grant which has been drastically slashed.

Executive Director Brad Richardson argued the merits of One Knox’s relevance just months after the council reluctantly agreed to continue its funding for the agency through the current fiscal year. Some council members had pushed for a discontinuation of the money, which was allocated at roughly $12,000 for the year.

Mayor J.J. Duvall instead asked the council to honor its commitment through the end of the year, when the city could reconsider One Knox as a priority during budget sessions.

Wendell Lawrence, executive director of the Lincoln Trail Area Development District, presented the proposed 2013 budget for One Knox, which has been reduced from hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to $75,000.

According to Lawrence’s budget proposal, $35,000 of the budget would pay for Richardson’s salary while another $30,000 would cover LTADD staff support used toward One Knox initiatives. The final $10,000 is set aside for web presence and outreach.

The budget reflects the slashes in grant funding through the Office of Economic Adjustment, which is lowering its portion from 90 percent to 75 percent to $56,250.

The local match has jumped from 10 to 25 percent at $18,750 within the budget, but Radcliff’s portion actually would be cut by more than half at $5,625, which is the same amount Hardin County and Elizabethtown would shoulder. The remaining local match would come from Meade County at $1,125 and Vine Grove at $750.

By funding the agency another year, Lawrence said, the city maintains its status as a member of the regional community and sees the endeavor through the grant cycle. Lawrence said OEA has indicated this is the final year of the grant as its duties related to the Base Realignment and Closure initiative end around the country

Richardson said Radcliff opting out of the agreement could damage funding chances for future projects in the eyes of the OEA, which has maintained its commitment since BRAC launched in 2005. Maintaining the confidence of the OEA for the future could hold enough value beyond the services One Knox offers, Richardson offered as one perspective.

Councilman Don Shaw said if the OEA is willing to stick its neck out for One Knox, then the city should give its commitment to One Knox more thought.

But Councilman Stan Holmes asked Richardson what tangible benefits the city is receiving for its money. Holmes said it is hard to relay to constituents where the money is going if the city has no way to weigh or measure One Knox’s impact.

Richardson said One Knox is continuing its role as a liaison to Fort Knox by offering a one-stop shop for post officials to get questions answered.

But Richardson said One Knox has provided training for job seekers on how to navigate the federal hiring system and are working on workforce transition support and assistance for spouses and veterans leaving the military.

One Knox also stands as a resource to help soldiers and families reintegrate by holding workshops and discipline specific training to help the soldier assimilate after combat.

One Knox has been a mediator between Fort Knox and economic development agencies by providing information on opportunities available at Fort Knox, he added.

And One Knox’s online presence has remained strong with more than 1,500 visitors flocking to its website each month. Richardson said visitors are using One Knox as a way to learn more about the community.

“It continues to be fairly popular with folks coming into the community,” he said of the website. “And it’s not just soldiers. It’s civilians, too.”

One of the larger projects One Knox is working on is the completion of a capstone project measuring all impacts of BRAC — from housing to economic development to workforce changes — to gauge what lessons were learned and where the communities impacted by BRAC need to improve. Lawrence said the project should be finished by June.

Richardson also argued One Knox may have more work to do in the future with a potential troop drawdown nationally and the implication of future rounds of realignments and closures.

But Richardson said it would be hard to quantify some of One Knox’s impact because there are certain aspects the agency does not measure, such as the number of people hired at the federal level after taking training sessions.

Councilman Jack Holland said one of his concerns is the lack of information provided by One Knox in recent years. This was only the second briefing the council had received from One Knox since Holland has returned to the council, he pointed out. Because of that, Holland said, he is at a loss when residents ask him about One Knox’s role.

Richardson apologized for the lack of communication and for “laying down” on the responsibility of keeping the council tuned in.

“You can’t make an informed decision if you don’t have the information,” Richardson said.

Duvall said the city has a conservative budget and must consider how it spends its money carefully. He also inquired about One Knox’s fate if funding dries up.

Lawrence said he has no doubt One Knox will continue functioning even if it downsizes or morphs into the LTADD or the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce.

“One Knox will remain in some form or fashion,” he said.

Councilman Don Yates said the city will review their obligation to One Knox carefully.

“We need to be prudent, whatever we do,” he said.

But Shaw said he believes One Knox has proven its value and he has no issues with the funding.

“We need a continuation of One Knox,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.