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Candidates for Boyle clerk, PVA participate in forum

 

The candidates for Boyle County Clerk and PVA offices met in a short public forum Tuesday night, organized by the Boyle County Chamber of Commerce. Following the clerk’s forum, which lasted less than 25 minutes, executive director of the chamber Jeff Jewel told the audience only a few questions were asked because there are no policy decisions that the offices can make. Only questions about how each candidate would run the office if elected were asked.

Boyle County Clerk

In her opening statement, incumbent Boyle County Clerk Trille Bottom said she has 29 years of experience in county government, with 19 years working in the sheriff’s office and 10 years as county clerk. Bottom said she was appointed as clerk by Judge-Executive Harold McKinney in 2008, was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014, making this the third full term she’s sought.

Bottom

Bottom said as county clerk, she’s received and used several grants to protect and preserve historical county records by using microfilming and indexing. She also has been the president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association.

Bottom said her years of experience are what best qualifies her for the job, with her sheriff’s office experiences carrying over into the clerk’s office. She worked with a $12 million budget in the sheriff’s office and and a $7.4 million budget in the clerk’s office.

“I have been familiar with reports that go along with that,” she said, explaining the daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly reports she’s done, as well as the budgets for both offices.

Republican challenger George Coomer said he is a fifth-generation Boyle County native. He explained he was a paratrooper in the Army, 82nd Airborne Division; a Kentucky National Guard flight medic; and a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Coomer said he has also had a successful career in the telecommunications industries and was a project manager with more than a $10 million budget.

Coomer

Coomer said he has managed more than 15 employees and has planned and executed complex projects during his career. “Throughout my life, I always found myself in leadership roles … social, civic or professional,” Coomer said.

Coomer said he’s best qualified for the job because he intends to bring the best, new and innovative ideas to the office in order for it to keep pace with modern technology and give the best customer service possible.

Both candidates said they want to make land records available to the public online.

Bottom said she’s been talking to a vendor for several months about putting the online system in place. The company has put several surrounding counties’ records online and now they are “ready to push forward” for getting Boyle set up.

Coomer said he was glad to hear Bottom was working on the project. He said when he was researching a deed in Marion County, that system was online and was free to the public. He said some online systems charge a subscription fee for users, but he wants to make it free for all local residents since tax dollars support the office.

Coomer said he thinks the biggest challenge to the county clerk’s office, or any government office, is trying to find ways to “think outside the box” when working to address any problems the public may be experiencing. “It’s way too easy to say, ‘No we can’t.’ … We need to find ways to say yes we can.” That’s where he said his project management and efficiency skills will be put to use if elected.

Bottom said she thinks the biggest challenge in the county clerk’s office is space. “We are running out of space” to store and maintain all of the county’s records, she said. She also thinks adding a passport service to the clerk’s office should be offered.

Both candidates agreed cutting the clerk’s budget by 10 percent because fiscal court is under financial stress due to jail issues wouldn’t be beneficial to residents.

Bottom said the clerk’s office is fee-based, which means it operates on collected fees and gives the excess money back to fiscal court; and is the largest fee office giving back to the county.

“So I don’t see where a 10-percent cut in our budget would be good, because then the county is not getting the excess fees that it has expected…”

She added, “If I’m not turning in as many excess fees … services could be lost or at least cut back” in departments that partially depend on funding from fiscal court.

Coomer doesn’t think a budget-cut is necessary.

“I think it’s necessary to find efficiencies …” he said. “The mission of the clerk’s office is to provide service to customers.”

When given the opportunity to ask each other a question, Coomer asked Bottom what the “stalling points” have been in regards to providing online records and having the office open on Saturday.

Since Bottom had already touched on the online service, she addressed extended hours, saying this is “an involved process.” She said fiscal court may not approve salaries needed to cover extended hours, and that the PVA and sheriff’s offices would be affected by this, as well, due to the security involved.

Bottom asked Coomer was his opinion was on the voter registration process, to which he responded he would like to see a stronger identification policy. “ … I would like to use the opportunity to lobby my legislators for stronger voter ID laws.”

Coomer closed with pledging to send out timely and accurate tax bills; and bring “extraordinary professionalism” to the office.

Bottom said the office runs like a “well-oiled machine,” and she is proud of her staff. “I’m going to go with an old adage … If it’s not broke don’t fix it.”

Property Valuation Administrator

Democrat Lacresha “My” Gibson is currently the deputy in the Boyle County PVA office, where she’s worked since 1996. Gibson listed the many certificates and classifications she’s earned over the years as part of her job training, and that she was named the Kentucky PVA Deputy of the Year in 2010.

Gibson

As for what makes her the best candidate, Gibson said, “I wish I had a fancy answer … My answer is experience. I know what it takes to run that office.”

She said the office provides technical information to surveyors, builders, property owners and federal agencies. “It’s more than just real estate information,” and she wants to continue her service to make sure there is no “gap” in service.

She said a big challenge is keeping the geographic information system program up to date because it’s also used by first responders.

Republican Brian Darnell described his business experience as a realtor and at his Nationwide Insurance agency. His experience also led him to a position in the state auditor’s office.

“I feel like that my fresh perspective will enable me to lead in a direction rooted in the future and not in the past. I may not have the direct experience, I think that’s to my advantage. It keeps me from being stuck in the way things have always been done.”

Darnell

He said the biggest challenge meeting public expectations of how the office should be run, due to concerns of about inconsistencies and the “appearance of lack of fairness.” Darnell said he would make the database free and more accessible to the public and investors, in order to “tear down some roadblocks.”

Gibson and Darnell were asked if they thought Kroger’s property valuation in 2014 was correct or not, following the company’s complaint and appeals to lower its property value.

Gibson said the PVA office recently received a ruling from the Kentucky Claims Commission, which upheld its assessment of $5.5 million for the property. She also said Kroger has just appealed again to overrule that decision, and PVA was waiting for the entire KCC process to be complete before any formal changes are made to the assessment.

Darnell said the correct valuation was ascertained at “arm’s length.”

“I would have walked away from Kroger with a deal. I wouldn’t have let it go to the KCC.” He said by not making a compromise with Kroger, “Boyle County got stuck with legal fees … I would have saved us the money.”

He said the PVA office needs a sense of compromise. “I feel like that it’s been such a long time since anyone with … fresh perspective … you end up with situations like with Kroger, that you’re at the mercy of the state.”

Gibson said she doesn’t like the word “change.” She said, “I want to use the word ‘continue.’” Gibson declined asking Darnell a question when given the opportunity because she had been so focused on her campaign.

However, Darnell asked Gibson if she would be willing to stay in the PVA office if he wins the election. Gibson answered that even though she appreciated the offer, if the citizens don’t elect her to do the job, “I will not be employed there.”