Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Health dept. could bankroll rail-trail

Director urges board to OK spending $100,000 on project
By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
The director of the Christian County Health Department wants to give $100,000 from the reserve fund to Hopkinsville’s rail-trail project.
But most members of the Board of Health fear the health department can’t afford it.
They need to save enough for a “rainy day,” said Dr. Wade Northington, the board’s new chairman. Several board members noted the budget shortfall in this fiscal year, financial troubles with the school nurse program and ongoing delays in Medicaid reimbursement.
The reserve fund has nearly $2.4 million.
Some $650,000 of that will go into the general fund by this summer, but more will come in too, Health Department Director Mark Pyle said.

Pyle proposed the allocation at a board meeting Monday evening. The board decided to consider it in a finance committee meeting and make a decision in a month or so.
Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp and Chamber of Commerce President Carter Hendricks attended the meeting to talk about the trail project’s importance. Kemp gave a short speech before the board’s decision.
In a study last year, Christian County ranked 116th out of Kentucky’s 120 counties when it came to infrastructure that promoted healthy living.
“I would think that if we were to spend this money to build this rail-trail, that ought to bump us up a little bit,” Kemp said.
He called the old railroad bed a “tremendous resource” Hopkinsville received for free from the U.S. Army. Other communities have paid railroad companies for the railroad beds they converted to recreation trails, he said.
Hendricks said it would help effect a culture change. He wants Christian County residents to believe they can have public resources equal to those in other regions.
“It’s much more emotional and visceral than, ‘I like to go run,’” he said, speaking of the trail’s significance.
The city hopes to raise $400,000 to help pay for the first phase, which would extend from the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library to a trailhead on Pardue Lane. This contribution from the health department would go a long way.
Pyle said the department can afford it. The money isn’t there for sitting on, he said. It’s supposed to advance public health, and it makes him proud to see the board using some of it.
Afterward board members took turns voicing their concerns.
“To consider this at this point in time would be premature,” Northington said.
The board will have a retreat soon — its first ever — and there it will establish its funding priorities, Northington said. Perhaps the trail project will fit in; perhaps not.
Mike Cayce said he endorses the trail projected but agrees with Northington.
“If we can do it, then I want to do it,” he said.
Several other members said the same. They briefly discussed giving $50,000 or some other amount.
When they finished, Kemp stood up to leave.
“I certainly understand,” he said. “Thank you.”
Pyle believes the board will assent after reviewing all the numbers.
In other business:
  •  The health department received a clean audit on its 2011-12 financial records. An employee of Truman Campbell Group, PLC outlined the audit’s results and provided copies.
  •  The board appointed its 2013 officers. Northington will serve as chair; Tom Jones as vice chair; Mike Cayce as treasurer; Pyle as secretary; and Dr. Marty Gamble as executive committee designee.
  •  The board scheduled the rest of its meetings for this year. They will be April 22, June 24, Sept. 23 and Nov. 18.

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