The county judge-executive presides over the Fiscal Court of Clark County, which administers the business side of government, Branham explained. These activities include roads, the prison, animal control, and the budget. Clark County is one of the few counties in the state with a fulltime paid county fire department, he added.
"Almost a third of Clark County tax dollars are spent to provide protection to the citizens and their property," said Branham. Next, the funds are spent on general government, capital improvements, roads, and general administration.
Clark County is preparing for a new look in government on Jan. 1, 2011, he added, with a switch from seven magistrates and a judge-executive to three commissioners elected at large and a judge-executive.
The Winchester Clark County Planning Commission regulates what people can do with their property, according to director Rhonda Cromer.
"One of our jobs is to make sure property values are protected," she said. As do other Kentucky counties, Clark has a comprehensive plan to help preserve agricultural land.
Karen Bushart, the county property valuation administrator (PVA), coordinates the office that assesses the taxable value of property. She explained one of the most important data bases that Clark County maintains: GIS, or geographic information system, which is funded principally by the City of Winchester, Winchester Municipal Utilities, and the office of the PVA. The Clark County Fiscal Court and the Board of Education are limited partners.
"If someone asks a question about land in Clark County, the GIS gives a visual answer," Bushart explained. This information is invaluable in road maintenance plans, storm sewer placement, project maps for grants, and bus routes, she said, in citing a few examples of data usage.
"It is the police presence and our patrolling that reduces crime, not arrests," said Police Chief Kevin Palmer, a member of the police department for fourteen years. "Our job is to protect citizens and their property and not compromise officer safety."
He's particularly proud of a new smaller police chief vehicle that boasts a sign in the back window, "This vehicle paid for by your local drug dealer." Winchester is downsizing vehicles where safety is not an issue, and using funds seized during drug busts to help reduce the taxpayer's costs of running the police department.
A recent police "hit" is the establishment of the Citizens Police Academy, a six-week program for local citizens of all ages in which participants complete a mini-police training course to understand the functions of the department, Palmer explained.
Palmer stresses character with his officers, especially the quality of discretion, which is knowing the right thing to do at the right moment. "Discretion is our most powerful tool," he said.
The fire department, with a $6 million dollar budget, made 4,669 runs from January through August to provide fire protection and emergency medical services to the citizens, explained Firefighter Ramsey Flynn. Winchester employs 39 firefighters, almost a third of whom are certified paramedics.
Winchester has a cutting edge if there is a disaster with chemicals and other hazardous materials, said Chief Danny Castle. The downtown fire station houses a huge van that is known as B.E.R.T. — Bluegrass Emergency Response Team — that is equipped with state-of-the-art rescue and containment equipment.
The Winchester Leadership class enjoyed a lunch sponsored by the fire department at the Eaton Station (Fire Station 1). Joining them for lunch was Ed Burtner, Mayor for the City of Winchester.