County may get new voting machines and official website

As the Boyle County Fiscal Court 2021-22 budget workshops come to a close, two expenditures are being discussed — new voting machines and a new county website.

County Clerk Trille Bottom introduced representatives from Harp Enterprises of Lexington who demonstrated to the court how their new electronic, digital, and paper ballot machines worked and all of their features.

Bottom said, “We’re thinking about looking at new voting equipment. What we have is pretty ancient.” She said the election machines, which record and tally every vote, were purchased with federal funds in 2005. And now the machines are outdated and replacement parts are scarce.

Bottom said now would be a good time to purchase new voting equipment because voting locations will no longer be in each precinct. She said her office is preparing to conduct voting at “super centers” where one voting location would be within each magisterial district.

She explained that two voting machines and one ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant machine will be at each voting super center. There will also be four spare machines available, she said, if the court votes to approve the purchase.

Harp’s original quote was for $342,000 to supply voting machines in the county’s 25 precincts. But having voting locations at only the super centers in each magisterial district reduced the number of voting machines thereby reducing the cost to about $190,000, she said. Also, there is another business that sells voting equipment, but it’s newest design is from 2005, according to Bottom.

Bottom said the federal government isn’t providing any money to counties for the purchase of new and updated voting equipment.

Harp’s machines are manufactured in Austin, Texas, one of the representatives said. And they have “built-in” security that’s not tied to the internet, he added. Harp Enterprises is also the county’s current voting machine dealer.

Bottom said her office hasn’t selected all of the super centers yet, but there will be one in each district. “We’re looking at schools,” she added.

Boyle Information Technology Director Bill Nichols received the court’s approval to solicit bids to develop and sustain a new website for the county.

CivicPlus and its features was the company he described during Tuesday morning’s meetings. CivicPlus specializes in creating websites and communications for governments. He said Williamsburg, Virginia, uses the same company.

The website Nichols is researching with CivicPlus will be more user friendly and give “the ability for constituents to interact with the website,” by logging in to their account and choosing what notifications they want to be aware of. The company could also set up the ability for residents to use a credit card to pay taxes  and permits through the website, he added.

In other business:

• Magistrate John Caywood referred to a “serious incident” that occurred during the April 15 fiscal court meeting and said an investigation was being conducted. In the meantime, the Kentucky Association of Counties’ attorney recommended everyone who had attended that meeting refrain from commenting about it.

The incident came about when, as per the agenda, County Administrator Julie Wagner took her turn at the podium to talk about the animal control ordinance that she had been working on for the past several months. The attorney for Parker’s Place dog kennel tried to enter the fiscal court room to talk about the ordinance, but he left the building as the magistrates continued to debate the legality of allowing him to speak, even though he wasn’t listed on the agenda.

During the May 11 meeting Caywood said, “This isn’t going away. We want our employees to know that we want to protect them and will protect them in any serious incidents such as we had on the 15th.” He said an investigation is being conducted “because this was a serious incident. We have witnesses that are putting together notes,” that will be turned over to the personnel committee, Caywood said.

A video recording of the April 15 meeting shows Wagner getting ready to make her presentation when Magistrate Jason Cullen asked, “Do we have a guest that wants to be part of this conversation?”

Wagner answered, “I don’t have anybody.”

Hunt said, “We’re not inviting anybody to be part of it.”

A knock on the door can be heard then Cullen said, “… Let him in.”

Director of Solid Waste Angie Muncy, who was waiting in the hallway for her turn on the agenda is heard saying, “A gentleman is out here trying to get in.”

Wagner once again said, “We don’t have anybody on the agenda.”

Cullen said, “It’s the attorney (Richard Getty) that sent us a letter regarding Parker’s Place. He wants to be part of the conversations on any animal control ordinance.”

Magistrate Ellis said he didn’t know that the attorney was going to be present and urged Hunt to let him in to speak. “…it might just be helpful to have him in here.”

Magistrates Ron Short and Phil Sammons disagreed.

Cullen replied that earlier in the meeting, a second person representing Republic Services, who was not named on the agenda, was allowed to come into the room and speak, so the attorney should be allowed also.

Magistrate Jamey Gay said, “Because it is an open public meeting, even though we are limiting access right now, it’s demonstrating kind of a weird circumstance.”

Caywood said, “I think this is a legal question because we will be challenged somewhere down the road on whatever we decide.”

When the court asked County Attorney Chris Herron for his opinion on whether the attorney should be allowed to speak, even though he nor his client were listed on the agenda, Herron said, “It’s totally up to you.” He added that he had talked with the attorney. “He said he was coming to talk,” Herron explained. “I talked to him and told him it’s closed to the public.”

Sheriff Derek Robbins then told the court, “He’s gone.”

A few minutes later Muncy entered the courtroom for her presentation and Hunt joked and said she was the “gate guard,” and “door guard.”

As she handed out papers to the magistrates, Muncy said, “He was not friendly. He was actually very, very rude. I mean rude.”

Caywood asked her, “Was he rude to you?”

Muncy replied, “No, he was not. He was very rude.”