Aiming to keep pace with the county’s growth and the resulting need for office space, Warren Fiscal Court on Friday took steps to increase its real estate holdings.
The fiscal court magistrates voted 6-0 to approve the purchase of 1.2 acres and a 9,636-square-foot building at 171 Center St. that had been home to Community Action of Southern Kentucky’s Resource & Development Center.
Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon is authorized to execute the $1.2 million purchase of property that, according to fiscal court records, is assessed at $1.35 million.
Buchanon sees it as a positive move both for the county and for Community Action, a nonprofit agency that has been ailing financially in recent years.
“We need more office space,” said Buchanon. “We’re bursting at the seams in the courthouse.”
Buchanon said which offices will move into the building is still being discussed, but he said moves should happen in the next couple months.
“We intend to take possession in 30 days,” he said. “We’ll take two or three weeks to paint and renovate and then move in.”
The sale of the property ties in with Community Action’s recent efforts to right its financial ship.
During Don Butler’s tenure as interim CASK executive director, the nonprofit received a $500,000 loan from the Kentucky Association of Counties and sold for $250,000 a 5,000-square-foot building on Beauty Avenue next door to the CASK headquarters.
Hired as CASK’s interim executive director in April 2018, Butler was tasked with returning the nonprofit agency to financial solvency after the tenure of former CASK Executive Director Melissa Weaver.
Butler, who retired in 2005 after 20 years with CASK, reduced CASK’s workforce and took other belt-tightening measures to address budget deficits. He recently stepped down again as the agency hired Carla Brown as executive director.
CASK oversees Head Start for preschoolers and senior centers in the region and also handles the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program and manages Bowling Green’s GO bg Transit bus service.
The Center Street building had been home to children’s services and community services offices that have been consolidated into a CASK building at 200 E. Fourth St.
Buchanon oversaw Friday’s fiscal court meeting in a nearly empty courthouse meeting room. Because of the local surge in COVID-19 cases, five of the six magistrates joined the meeting via teleconference. Buchanon, who has recovered from his own bout with COVID-19, said the next meeting, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 27, will also be held virtually.
“It is serious,” Buchanon said of the surge in COVID-19 cases. “We hope the Delta variant will peak out and start going down in the next month or so.”
In action that illustrates the seriousness of the pandemic, the magistrates voted to grant authority to Warren County Emergency Management to advertise for bids to purchase a 16-body refrigerated remains trailer for use by emergency management and the county coroner’s office.
County Emergency Management Director Ronnie Pearson said the move to purchase the trailer is needed both to address the county’s growth and the demands of the pandemic.
“COVID has contributed to the problem,” Pearson said. “We’ve had a couple of incidents since the pandemic started where we were at capacity at our hospitals and at the coroner’s office.
“We don’t want to get into that position again.”
Pearson said the needs of the coroner’s office were already growing as the county grew but that the COVID-19 outbreak has added to those needs.
“Pre-COVID, we were able to handle the number of fatalities,” Pearson said. “Those in hospitals go to a temporary area until the funeral home can get them.
“COVID has added to the issue. We just want to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed.”
County Coroner Kevin Kirby said the trailer is a “wise investment” for the county, particularly at this time.
“The trailer can be used for disasters with mass fatalities,” Kirby said. “At this time, it can help because we’re experiencing a lot of COVID deaths. We’ve had 11 in just the last week.”
In other action Friday, Buchanon swore in John Clark as the new director of school safety and school resource officer manager for Warren County Public Schools.
Clark spent 25 years with the Kentucky State Police, including five as commander of Bowling Green’s Post 3 before retiring in 2019.
The husband of long-time WCPS teacher and administrator Nicole Clark, John Clark said the position was a natural fit for him.
“I knew when I retired that I was going to do something else,” he said. “I kept my eyes open for opportunities. When this came up, it was really a no-brainer.”
The position overseeing the school system’s 10 school resource officers became available after Clark Arnold stepped down to take a job on U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s staff.
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Curtis Hargett said Clark’s background with KSP makes him a great fit for the position.
“He oversees all the SROs, so having leadership experience is important,” Hargett said.
WCPS Superintendent Rob Clayton emphasized the importance of the SRO program that started with county deputies in the high schools and has spread to the middle schools and even some presence in elementary schools.
“I can’t think of any asset more important than our SRO program,” Clayton said. “The deputies are valuable assets in our schools.
“Deputy Clark will help us feel that level of comfort to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”