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CACEDA Meeting 21 Feb 2017: Coming to grips with drug impact

At the Tuesday, February 21, 2017 EDA meeting
  • Facing and overcoming epidemic of drug abuse takes center stage
  • Most area employers are having trouble filling available slots, but Chairman Dykes, Mayor Hardwick say that if new jobs are available, they could be filled with returning and new to area residents.
  • Chairman Dykes calls for Town Hall forums on drug issues
  • New website is online
  • Treasurer Ann Martin reports authority has $163,710.82 cash on hand.
  • Sewer work at Green River Commerce Park could be five construction days from completion, Mayor Hardwick, Chairman Dykes say.
  • EDA hears that lease costs could be reduced if new tenant rents surplus space in Chamber Building

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By Ed Waggener

A brief agenda at the Columbia-Adair County Economic Development Authority, Inc. came with good news on several fronts, but the dominating issue was coming to grips with the drug problem impact Adair County and other South Central Kentucky counties are coming to grips with three generational family histories of drug abuse.

The authority got good news on its finances from Treasurer Ann Martin, heard from Chairman Mark Dykes that the Green River Commerce Park Sewer project should be within five work days of completion, that the groups new website, is now online, and that their contribution to the upkeep of the Chamber Building may be reduced if a lease arrangement the Chamber is working on becomes a reality.

But the optimism was sobered by a discussion of the illegal drug problem in Adair County when Chairman Dykes commented on the recent drug use stories in the Community Voice. Dykes said, "This is the No. 1 issue facing the county at this time."

He said it is causing problems throughout the region, with many existing employers being unable to staff workplaces because so many could not pass drug tests. He said that some plants no longer have mandatory drug tests for all, only for those who give indications that they may be substance abusers. Dykes said that it will take a group - a community effort to solve the problem.

Chamber President Ellen Zornes told those the meeting that she was encouraged that a problem she and others had been warning about for years now seems to have grown to the point that now the issue has come out of the shadows and will be confronted by a united community.

"Just talking about it is a huge step forward."

Former Chamber President and retired Adair County Educator Brenda Mann said that somehow the public thinks that drug abuse is a teen problem. It was, once, but now we have many families with a third generation where the drug culture dominates. "Sadly," she said, "we're now to the stage where many children are born who have drug issues."

"Now," she said, "use of illegal drugs is a 40 year old problem, and that's what's creating our challenge fulfilling job openings."

Mayor Curtis Hardwick noted the change in the drug culture from his high school days, when kids knew of a few experimenting with marijuana. "But now, its prescription drug abuse. It's hit every family, every part of the county."

Chairman Dykes said that a difference is how families instill a moral compass in their children. "When we were young, we were taught - and we knew - right from wrong. We may not have always done the right thing, but we knew the difference."

Editor Sharon Burton of the Community Voice commented that drugs are so much stronger now, that using meth or heroin means a user is hooked for life. She said the problem got out of control when drug companies targeted three areas of the U.S. to sell drugs like Oxycontin and that Eastern Kentucky was one of the targets for the marketing. She commented on the three generational impact and said that many overdose deaths are clustered in the people in the 40 year old bracket.

Chairman Dykes said, "We have to come to grips with the issue," and encouraged Town Hall meetings.

Mayor Hardwick noted work along those lines of Journey to Recovery, which holds meetings every Friday evening at their new location at 24 Burnett Road, Columbia, KY.

Mr. Dykes said that the drug problem, and difficulty filling jobs locally because of it, should not be a deterrent to forging ahead with plans for more opportunities. "Maybe the lack of hope contributed to the explosion of the drug problem in the first place," he said. He said that many job slots are being filled by non-residents and former residents who want to move to the area.

Mayor Hardwick agreed. "We can fill a factory if it takes it to bring some back home."

Mr. Dykes agreed, saying that an atmosphere of hope is necessary to keep the brightest students from leaving home.

Brenda Mann said major emphasis will still be needed for the youngest. "We have to change the next generation," she said.

EDA board approves minutes, treasurer's report, payment approval

The board routinely approved the minutes of the January meeting, and Treasurer Ann Martin's treasurer's report. Treasurer Martin reported an ending, January 31, 2017 balance of $139,680.82, after a $29,552.89 payment to the City of Columbia for the EDA's share of the Green River Commerce Park sewer project. The January 1, 2017 beginning balance was $160,222.24. But after the receipt of $33,030.00 deposit by Jeff Biggs for cropland lease, the balance in the checking account had recovered to $163,710.82.

The board authorized a completion payment of $300 to Paige Nickell for the balance remaining on the creation of the EDA's website, She encouraged the authority and the community to check it out and make comments.

Chamber working to rent office spaces

Chamber President Ellen Zornes reported on a promising lease for three office spaces in the Chamber Building which might bring in as much as $1,500 for month from a "government type" renter. She told the board that the new tenants' contribution would reduce their contribution to the cost of the Chamber building, but the amount was yet to be determined. The authority members voiced approval for the plan.

Mayor Hardwick gives update on payments made on Green River Commerce Park work

Mayor Curtis Hardwick said that the City has now paid $66,276 to Cumberland Pipeline, $14,571 for pipe, and $426.55 for rock, but expected the latter to be reimbursed by Columbia/Adair County Utilities District. He said that the project was delayed slightly by Texas Eastern giving the final permission to cross the pipeline. Mark Dykes said the next project will be completion of the Build Ready Pad in GRCP.

Authority votes to drop employee insurance plan

The EDA voted to authorize necessary action to drop insurance coverage with the Kentucky Employer Mutual Insurance, because with current arrangements with the Chamber of Commerce, the EDA has no employees.

Large group in attendance In addition to Chairman Mark Dykes, the February 21, 2017, meeting was also attended by Secretary Randy Burns, Treasurer Ann Martin, and members Kenzie Rowe, Roger Meadows, and Anthony Janes; Jakob Beckley, Bonner Scholar volunteer; Adair County Deputy CJE Andrea Waggener, Mayor Curtis Hardwick, C/AC Chamber President Ellen Zornes, and former President and Board member Brenda Mann; and Media representatives Ann Melton, Sharon Burton, and Ed Waggener.

This story was posted on 2017-02-22 06:33:56
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EDA Chair Mark Dykes calls for town hall meeting on drug issues

2017-02-22 - Chamber Building, 201 Burkesville Street, Columbia, KY - Photo by Ed Waggener, .
Amid growing optimism for getting new jobs in Columbia, EDA Chairman said the community must come to grips with it's "No. 1 issue", drug abuse, and called for Town Hall type forums the make changes. Photo Tuesday, February 21, 2017. - EW

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Jakob Beckley on duty as Bonner Scholar at Chamber office

2017-02-23 - Chamber Building, 201 Burkesville Street, Columbia, KY - Photo by Ed Waggener, .
Jakob Beckley, a Lindsey Wilson College Bonner Scholar from Henry County, KY, satisfies his Bonner community service commitment as a volunteer at the Columbia/Adair County Chamber of Commerce, C/AC Economic Development Office, and C/AC Tourism Commission with 16 hours per week assistance in the day-to-day operations of the combined office. He took part in the EDA's meeting, Tue 21 Feb 2017. - EW

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