Fiscal Court to consider joining opiate use recovery study; Court discusses Mercer solar farm intervention, new jail
Published 1:22 pm Thursday, May 4, 2023
BY FIONA MORGAN
The Fiscal Court heard a presentation about participating in a clinic study addressing opiate use disorder. The project is by NET Recovery (Neuro-Electric Therapy).
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NET Recovery President and CEO Joe Winston said they’ve been researching new treatment for opiate use disorder for 12 years. Standard treatment for people with OUD has them taking medication, but this new treatment makes it so people don’t have to take medication every day.
Winston said the treatment helps to drop withdrawal symptoms, and then will help dopamine and serotonin levels go back to pre-addiction levels. He said this will take away people’s cravings for drugs.
Their study is called the Sober Study, which stands for Social Benefits of Recovery. They will be treating 500 people with OUD and compare them to 500 people who didn’t receive treatment.
Winston said most studies measure overdoses and deaths, but they want to measure if people can return to normal life and be productive citizens.
“What we’re measuring is the ability of people to return to normal life: are they employed, what are their wages, do they participate in education, are they arrested?” Winston explained.
They have requested $3.7 million from the Attorney General’s Office, and are requesting $1.3 million from a group of up to 12 counties.
If Boyle County wants to participate, they would ask for $36,000 from the county’s opioid settlement funds this year, and $12,000 for each of the next two years. In return, Boyle County could refer citizens who need treatment to NET Recovery, and they would help get people in treatment and aftercare.
Magistrates said they would look at more information about the study and discuss whether to participate.
The court heard information about Mercer County’s battle to use land for economic development versus solar development.
Mercer County Judge Executive Sarah Steele explained that there’s a valuable piece of land that could bring thousands of jobs to the county. The land is north of Harrodsburg near the 127 bypass, and is roughly 1900 acres.
She explained that there have been private development proposals to turn that land into a solar farm twice in recent years, and the fiscal court voted them down both times in response to community backlash.
“Since then, Mercer County has realized just how important and how valuable that land is; it is actually one of the top sites in Kentucky right now,” Steele said. “We’ve been working with the Cabinet for Economic Development, the Industrial Development Authority in the last year.”
They’ve discussed building an industrial park on the site, as it’s a valuable site for jobs. Steele said they’ve had three site visits this year for new industries to come in. She said an industrial site would bring anywhere from 2,000 to 7,000 jobs to the region, which would have an impact on all surrounding counties.
Some reasons the land is so valuable is because it’s next to a rail line, highway 127, and two major power lines.
Steele explained that even though they’d been having serious discussions about developing that land for over a year, in December 2022, LG&E KU filed with the Public Service Commission to take over that land for solar development.
Mercer County filed an intervention, and recently held a public meeting about the issue, which hundreds of community members attended. Steele said the PSC filing stated that the solar farm would bring 0 jobs.
The E.W. Brown Plant has plans to decommission their coal plant in the next few years and expand with solar. They’ve already been signing lease agreements around Mercer County for solar development, and are approaching local farmers. Steele said Boyle County farmers could expect the same, and Boyle County will be affected whatever the land on 127 is used for.
A public hearing on the filing will be held in August at the Public Service Commission.
The court approved costs associated with the Boyle County Detention Center switching from e-jail software back to JailTracker software. Jailer Brian Wofford said e-jail has caused problems, and the cost of implementing JailTracker is $16,250.
The court also expressed their intent to sign a new contract with design firm Brandstetter Carroll for them to design a new jail. They will come back and do a presentation at the next meeting.
Wofford said they should be willing to look at and consider what the jail situation is like now as opposed to when a previous jail study was done in 2018, which is when discussions for a new jail started. They can adjust plans from what was proposed back then to what fits today.
“We need room for treatment, programs, GED, because we see it working,” Wofford said.
But Wofford said they also need to think of any increases that could happen in the future, either from other counties wanting to place their inmates in Boyle’s jail, or from a new epidemic. Wofford said the smallest number of beds they should have is 300, so there would be extra room for any spikes that may happen.
He said Mercer County likely would not help pay for the new jail; if so, the joint jail system would go away, and Mercer would be a customer and pay daily rates for inmates.
Wofford said they will need to have a community meeting on the matter soon, since the project will use many taxpayer dollars.
In other business:
• The court passed the first reading of an ordinance issuing bonds for Centre College. They will issue Educational Facilities Revenue and Refunding Revenue Bonds, Series 2023, in the aggregate principal amount of approximately $70 million.
The proceeds will be loaned to Centre College to finance all or a portion of the remaining costs of the development of new athletic facilities, which includes a natatorium, fieldhouse, fitness, and training center, stadium, athletic field, track, baseball field. It will also include renovation of other campus facilities, including student residence facilities and various other capital projects.
They will also issue Refunding Revenue Bonds from 2007 and 2008, which financed the expansion and renovation of Young Hall, Cowan Dining Commons, Norton Center for the
Arts, three years of regular acquisitions of instructional equipment and technology infrastructure,
and miscellaneous campus improvements.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at the next court meeting on May 11.
• Perryville Mayor Carlos Miller requested permission to pursue annexation of some houses near the border of Perryville. Senate Bill 141, which was passed this year, put a one-year moratorium on cities annexing properties. The purpose of SB 141 is for cities and counties to come up with a long-term solution to annexation.
However, cities can still annex if they get approval from the county. Miller asked that they annex a few subdivisions near the border of Perryville, which he said should be part of the city anyway.
Magistrates said they are open to the idea, but requested that Miller come back with a specified map of what they want to annex.