Thumbs up; thumbs down, Jan. 23

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thumbs Up

Anderson cautious about industrial project

At last week’s Board of Adjustments meeting for Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning, the board voted to approve a variance that would allow a 150-foot-tall structure in the industrial park. Board members David Anderson and Jesse Purdy voted against the move, with Anderson citing concerns about potential unknown impacts public health or the “character” of the area.

Email newsletter signup

As is often the case with projects involving potential business growth, details are being kept to a minimum. It seems Economic Development Partnership President Jody Lassiter may be the only person in Boyle County who knows what the 150-foot structure would be and he has signed a non-disclosure agreement as the prospective business tries to pick between three states for its estimated $100-million, 275-job project.

The board vote on the variance may have been split 4-2, but we think everyone did the right thing.

Anderson is absolutely right that leaders should not just say yes to any and every economic development project. There are certainly bad options out there somewhere, with benefits that are far outweighed by the costs.

If the only variables we consider in approving economic development projects are money and jobs, we put ourselves at risk of taking the bait on something that hurts the area in the long-term. $10 million and 275 jobs sounds awesome, but what if, as Anderson suggested, the project ruins the rural atmosphere that nearby Wilderness Trail Distillery is capitalizing on big-time? What if the project would create pollution that damages our water quality or property values in the area? There are many possible costs the community may not be willing to pay for those jobs.

However, we think the board made the right choice despite the concerns. This variance is a preliminary step designed to simply keep Boyle County in the game as a candidate for the project. There are many further hurdles to be cleared before the project could happen if Boyle was selected.

As Lassiter said during the variance hearing, the board’s action do not grant the unnamed company behind the “Project Eagle” codename “carte blanche” — they don’t get to just do whatever they want because of a single variance.

The company will still have to produce a site plan and could even have to seek further variances from the Board of Adjustments. So the community has not given away its chance to ask questions or say no.

Thumbs Up

Support for Sunrise after fire

We’re hearing initial reports of a strong showing of support from the community for Sunrise Children’s Services following a fire Friday that destroyed the organization’s activities center.

Fortunately, everyone was able to make it to safety, including the 27 boys who live at the psychiatric residential treatment facility.

The boys were taken to an area church temporarily, but have now been able to return to Sunrise.

They’re now missing a vitally important facility: “The activity center was so much more than just a place to play ball for these boys,” Sunrise said in a statement released over the weekend. “They made arts and crafts there. They watched movies there. They participated in art and music that were an integral part of their treatment and therapy.”

But we think there will be more than enough help from Sunrise’s supporters to build back and give these boys the spaces they need to thrive.

Thumbs Up

Quick action on jail fire alarms

The Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee and the Boyle County Fiscal Court should be commended for taking swift action to replace the Boyle County Detention Center’s aging fire alarm system.

The system has been in place for two decades and, according to jail staff, has had various issues through the years that could always be repaired. But now the system is malfunctioning with false alarms on a regular basis.

The alarm company told jail staff on Jan. 10 that to fix the problem this time, the whole system would have to be shut down. Because of the system’s age, chances were good it would never start back up.

Within a week, the Boyle-Mercer Joint Jail Committee and Boyle County Fiscal Court had both reviewed the facts, asked questions and come to a decision that makes sense from a long-term fiscal responsibility perspective.

Instead of risking a $1,000 fix that could leave the jail in the lurch, the counties will be investing in a new alarm system, to the tune of around $37,000.

But that higher price tag looks a lot smaller when you consider the following:

• The $1,000 “Band-Aid” could have failed and the $37,000 fix would then still be needed on top of the $1,000 already spent.

• Even if the $1,000 fix worked, the jail would still have a decades-old fire alarm system prone to failure. The last thing Boyle and Mercer counties need is to have their jail shut down for failing an inspection. If magistrates don’t like how much the jail costs now, they would hate to see the bills if they have to pay other jails to house inmates.

• The new system will be able to fulfill the jail’s alarm system needs for a long time to come, as it can handle around 1,000 alarm system modules, meaning the counties won’t have to worry about the cost of a new system if their ongoing jail study determines the need for a new or expanded facility.

• The new system is also mobile — it can be uninstalled and reinstalled in a new location if the jail is rebuilt elsewhere.

It may cost more right now, but it’s a near certainty that this investment will cost less in the long-term and minimize the counties’ liabilities, making it the best choice for managing taxpayer dollars properly.