GLASGOW – Magistrate Carl Dickerson on Tuesday brought up the possibility of reducing the number of magistrates who make up Barren Fiscal Court.
There are now seven magistrates, but Dickerson said that’s too many.
Reducing the number of magistrates is something Dickerson said fiscal court needs to address before the next magisterial election in two years.
“I just believe five is a better number. Even if you have four and you have ties, the judge can break them,” he said.
Dickerson cited Kentucky Revised Statute 67.045, which details the procedure for reducing magisterial districts.
In such a case, the law said fiscal court “shall initiate” reapportion proceedings in May of the first year following the decennial census, which would be next May.
When magistrates are elected by districts, the law says the population in each district should be as equal as reasonably possible.
To create a reapportion committee, fiscal court would name three people to serve along with the county clerk, the law said.
“Guys, we’ve got to reapportion the county in May, regardless. … My suggestion would be to get our board started, if it is legal to start before May, and have them work with the BITS (Barrens Information Technology Systems) office and give us some options of reapportioning the districts,” Dickerson said.
He asked Barren County Attorney Kathryn Thomas if fiscal court could appoint its committee now so it could begin its work. Thomas said she wasn’t sure but would seek an answer.
“I don’t know if that is something we need to do now, or if we actually need to wait on that census data to see which way we actually need to go,” Judge-Executive Micheal Hale said.
Magistrate Trent Riddle brought up the amount of time involved in serving as a magistrate.
“When I look at Mr. (Jeff) Botts, Mr. (Tim) Coomer and Mark (Bowman), how involved they are with the budget committee and the road department and the load that they are carrying right now, I wonder when you take away two magistrates you create more load for them,” he said. “I’m wondering: Are we gaining something by doing this, or we actually just piling more and more hay on the wagon? How much more can you do, Jeff and Mark and Tim? How much more can you guys do?”
Serving as a magistrate is something Botts said he couldn’t do if he wasn’t a private business owner because of the amount of time involved.
Botts also said the magistrates’ responsibilities are rather balanced, but he said he and Magistrate Billy Houchens don’t oversee the maintenance of as many county roads as other magistrates.
If the number of magistrates was reduced to five, there would be more work and pressure on those five, especially when attending committee meetings, Houchens said.
“I’m not against it,” he said, adding he thought it needed to be discussed.
“We have to do what’s right for the taxpayers of Barren County,” he said.
Riddle also brought up the possibility of looking into a county commission form of government with three commissioners.
“They would be full-time employees,” he said, and the commissioners could assist the parks and recreation department, the judge-executive and the road department.
“That would be something I would go along with because I think it would be a benefit to the county,” he said.
Riddle asked Hale for his opinion on changing the form of county government, and Hale said it would be an issue Barren County voters would have to decide.
“I just want to say that the work that you all put into these committees, I feel like it is paying off. Because the one thing I hear from the general public is that magistrates are very well-informed and they are very quick to make decisions,” Hale said.
He said he thinks the county could get by with fewer than seven magistrates, but he doesn’t know how many the county needs.
Hale said the magistrates needed to lean on the county attorney and allow her to advise them on how to proceed.