Tuesday morning, the Lincoln County Fiscal Court heard concerns about turnover at the Lincoln County Public Library from former-Library Advisory Board member Keith Lemons. Lemons, who quit the board angrily in November of 2010 after longtime Library Director Kay Peppard was forced to retire by the library’s Executive Board. At the time, Lemons told the board, “I am handing in my resignation because of the treatment and humiliation you subjected Kay to. No one should have to go through that,” he said, “I can’t condone it any longer, therefore I am resigning.” Now the library has lost another head librarian and its accounts payable clerk and its clear that Lemons holds the Executive Board responsible.
“We’ve lost our librarian...again. My question is how are members placed on the board? How much control do you have.” The short answer is “none.” The Fiscal Court gets a list of qualified candidates from the state’s Department of Libraries and Archives and votes them onto the Executive Board. The Judge Executive told Lemons that the library is its own taxing entity and does not answer to the Fiscal Court. Lemons said that with the library continually voting for tax increases a huge amount of money is involved. “Soon, they will take in as much money as the county does,” Lemons said.
Jamie Mingo, who replaced Peppard in 2010, resigned from her post last week.
County Attorney Daryl Day told the Fiscal Court the Lemons is not alone in his concern for the turnover at the library. “People have stopped me on the street. People have called my office; they are very concerned.” Magistrate David Faulkner said that he has heard the same concern from library patrons.
Lemons also voiced concern about how the loss of another director has affected the staff. “I’m in the library at least three times a week and morale is a concern.”
Day told Lemons that removing board members is a lengthy process that would involve hearings to determine cause. Lemons responded saying, “We’ve got a beautiful library, but we have to make sure its as good on the inside as it is on the outside.”
In other business, Jailer David Gooch presented his first quarter report on the jail with generally good news. Gooch reported that the decision to contract out medical care seems to have been economically sound with healthcare costs for inmates declining. Gooch also said that having round the clock access to a doctor has relieved him of the responsibility of making decisions about the treatment of inmates.
Gooch did warn the court that he anticipated a decline in the number of state prisoners in the coming months that could effect the jail’s bottom line.
State prisoners are a money maker for the jail and offset the cost of housing county prisoners. House Bill 463, passed by the Kentucky legislature last year, went into effect at the New Year and has resulted in the early release of many state prisoners. Gooch said the Lincoln jail had only released one state prisoner but he anticipated seeing an exodus of state prisoners who will be transferred to less crowded jails. When a jail meets 125 percent of its capacity, state prisoners will automatically be transferred to less crowded facilities. The Lincoln jail is currently operating at 145 percent capacity.
At the same time, the jail is seeing a steady increase of county prisoners. Gooch said in the last six months there has been an almost straight-line increase in the number of local prisoners with the average population going from 36.6 last July to 64.6 today. Gooch could not account for the increase other than to say the numbers are related to the number of deputies and police officers on the streets.