Fiscal Court changes solar farm moratorium, approves two new EMT positions

Published 8:20 am Friday, July 8, 2022

The Fiscal Court voted at its meeting on June 28 to lift the current moratorium on solar farms that would’ve ended on July 15, and then made a new moratorium on solar farms until Jan. 1, 2023, so they can pass new solar regulations.

Although magistrates have learned much about solar farms and best practices since enacting the moratorium in December 2021, the court still felt it needed more time to pass new solar farm regulations, due to probable changes at the state and national levels.

Judge Executive Howard Hunt explained that the company PJM (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland), which is responsible for managing the transportation of electricity from power plants to various utilities, is at a standstill on approving solar projects.

PJM is a nonprofit that operates a competitive market for wholesale electricity in all or part of 13 states, including Kentucky. A recent boom in solar project requests caused a huge backlog and a resulting standstill, with no end in sight as of now. Hunt said that the county should consider keeping their moratorium in place as long as PJM is not issuing solar contracts.

“I think there’s a whole lot of societal or cultural change going on in every review process at the regional and national level that we need to see how it shakes out, once PJM re-institutes their processes,” Hunt said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had presented a draft ordinance to the court in April, but the court decided to wait and research the issues further.

With the departure of Planning and Zoning Director Steve Hunter, the court needs to allow the replacement director, whoever it may be, some time to learn about the solar farm situation.

Hunter brought up the concern that the county might have a legal limit on how long a moratorium can last. He explained that in other cities he’s worked for, moratoriums can’t go past 12 months, but that counties might have different laws.

Despite uncertainties about a possible time limit, magistrates voted yes on the new moratorium date and agreed to talk with County Attorney Chris Herron about any potential time limit.

EMS Staffing

The court voted to approve two new full time EMT positions, in order for EMS to have four ambulances available at all times instead of three.

EMS Director Mike Rogers explained that EMS runs increased significantly in the last year. In the 2019-2020 year, EMS brought in about $1.2 million. In the 2021-2022 year, they brought in $1.8 million. Right now, the extra money is going to new equipment and staffing.

Rogers explained that the county is required to have staffing for three ambulances at all times. Each ambulance is staffed with two EMTs, and if a call warrants it, a paramedic will follow in a chase vehicle.

Rogers further explained that two ambulances must be physically in the county at all times. EMS sometimes does patient transfers from Ephraim McDowell to UK Hospital, which removes one of the ambulances from the county for that period of time. With increases in patient transfer requests, some patients have had to wait at the hospital for several hours because they can only use one ambulance for transfers.

Due to higher run volume, current staff has had to work many overtime hours. Rogers explained that when someone calls off a shift, he has to have another employee cover that shift, and therefore work overtime.

He said having more budgeted staff will reduce overtime pay. He would not necessarily have to get cover for someone who calls off, because having the staff for a fourth ambulance is not a requirement.

He said despite increasing run volume, the county has had the same staffing numbers since he started in 1999. Magistrate Jason Cullen said it is good basic practice that when business increases, staff must increase.

The two new positions will add about $120,000 per year to the EMS budget.

In other business, the court:

• Approved the hiring of Terry Dunn as Outreach Coordinator for EMS.

• Appointed Rebecca Kernodle to the Ethics Commission.

• Ellis brought up an issue in Perryville where water runoff is threatening Merchant Row, which is one of the only intact Civil War-era business districts in the country. Asphalt on US 68 has been layered over so many times that the road elevation is higher than the sidewalks and storefronts.

Ellis explained that the flooding could be causing rot in the foundations of the buildings. Ellis, Hunt and Perryville Mayor Carlos Miller then met with District 7 Transportation officials last Friday to request that the state resolve the issue.

• Passed the second reading of the budget.