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Role of chamber may be redirected

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Community events could be entrusted to local festivals committee

By Marty Finley

Brad Richardson wants to expand the role the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce plays in promoting and exploring initiatives for small businesses and local commerce.

By the same token, he said he believes these efforts would be strengthened by shifting the burden of local festivals and community events to a new body.

Richardson, the newly hired president and CEO of the chamber, told Hardin Fiscal Court he believes it is in the best interest of the county to consider a countywide approach to organizing these events similar to the Derby Festival in Louisville and Lincoln Days in Hodgenville. Richardson unveiled the idea Friday during a monthly briefing at a Fiscal Court meeting.

Making sure not to discount the importance of the events, he said the creation of a county festivals committee could move the responsibility to a faction made up of local cities and the county while also seeking feedback from groups who have never participated in the organization of these events in the past, such as civics clubs.

At the same time, Richardson said he believes this committee could explore ways in which the county can maximize the events, such as the combination of the Elizabethtown Summer Concert Series with the Kentucky Heartland Festival this year.

Richardson said he has already broached the subject with some local mayors and hopes others within the community are open to the idea.

Since taking the position earlier in the month, Richardson, who has decades of experience in economic development, has pushed a more aggressive platform in promoting local businesses and small business programs, such as the buy local program he announced Wednesday at the chamber’s monthly luncheon.

Richardson also has said he wants to promote more business-to-business communication within the community.

Talks also have swirled about the creation of a “powerhouse entity” that could have a multi-functional approach to economic development in Hardin County.

Placing a slew of community events the chamber is immersed in into the hands of a committee will effectively free the chamber’s hands to wholeheartedly pursue these endeavors, Richardson told the nine-member court.

Magistrate Roy Easter urged Richardson to pursue the approach with caution so as not to override those who have labored over these events since their inception.

Richardson agreed with Easter’s assessment.

“The idea is to take the energy and experience and put it to greater use,” he said.

Magistrate Lisa Williams, who heads the Lincoln Trail Innovation Center, said she is pleased the chamber wants to shift in a more business-oriented direction and believes Richardson will do well in guiding the chamber’s efforts.

IN OTHER NEWS

  • Hardin Fiscal Court approved a three-year extension with Hardin Billing Services, 6-3. Magistrates Doug Goodman, Dwight Morgan and E.G. Thompson voted against the extension. The vote came after heated debate in which some members of the court wanted to pursue a competitive bid process to determine if Hardin Billing Service was the best company to handle the county’s accounts. Most of the court believed an extension was in the county’s best interest. Thompson and Morgan again argued Friday in favor of bidding the contract out, telling the court they had received calls from interested companies who want the opportunity to bid. Both men said they were elected to find the best uses of taxpayer money. “I think the only fair thing here is to bid it out,” Morgan said. But Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry said the contract has served the county well. Under the contract, Hardin Billing Services will be paid 8 percent of the total collections or $1.75 for each monthly account collected.
  • The court also reappointed Carolyn Ritchie to a four-year term as county treasurer and hired former Hardin County Jailer Louis Lawson to serve as part-time buildings and grounds supervisor. Under the terms of the position, Lawson will be paid $20.30 an hour and will work 100 hours or less a month. Magistrate Doug Goodman was the lone no vote and Magistrate E.G. Thompson abstained. Goodman did not question Lawson’s qualification but was skeptical the position was the most effective use of resources. Lawson stepped away from county government in December and was replaced as jailer by former Road Supervisor Danny Allen, who won the November general election. Lawson did not pursue re-election.

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