State of emergency declared in Knox County

Knox County Judge Executive Mike Mitchell and Knox County Magistrates make sure to keep a healthy social distance during Tuesday's Knox County Fiscal Court meeting. | Photo by Jarrod Mills

KNOX COUNTY - During Wednesday afternoon’s Knox County Fiscal Court meeting, Knox County Judge Executive Mike Mitchell declared a state of emergency for Knox County amid the current pandemic caused by COVID-19.

“We’ll all get through this,” said Mitchell during the public announcements part of Wednesday’s meeting. “As Knox Countians, I want to urge everyone to be neighborly and courteous of others and respectful. The history of Knox Countians is that we’re a resilient bunch of people, as well as the counties around us, Whitley and Laurel. Whenever it gets tough, we do what we got to do and I think we will get through this pandemic situation that we’re dealing with. I just want to urge everyone to stay calm and practice safe health measures.”

The state of emergency is retroactive to take affect March 9, 2020. This allows Judge Mitchell to waive formalities and procedures otherwise required by law pertaining to performance of public work, the entering into contacts, carrying out obligations, the employment of permanent and temporary workers, the utilization of volunteer workers, and the rental and equipment appropriations and expenditures of public funds.

Mitchell’s announcement follows President Donald Trump’s announcement of a national emergency, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s declaration of state of emergency for the state of Kentucky.

“Gov. Beshear has done an outstanding job as far as showing leadership to take these measures,” said Mitchell. “States that have not took these measures are really facing some uncertainty as far as where we are. Our numbers are down comparatively to other states.”

Mitchell also announced that he has formed a local economic committee to aid local businesses during this time.

“All the stimulus money that’s coming down, whether it be through SBA or grants, this will enable us to put out this information, and we can help people with trying to keep their businesses, and keep their employees paid,” Mitchell announced.

The committee is currently made up of business leaders from local banks and the Knox County Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to urge everyone to continue to use local businesses as far as carry-out, right now we’re still able to do that,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to need them after this is over, we need them right now as well.”

Knox County Clerk Mike Corey announced that his office is also going through trying times, but assured the court that they are doing everything they can to help Knox County citizens during the pandemic.

“We have put our deed records online. If citizens are dealing with a financial institution, or they need to do a title search, they can do that,” Corey said. “The title search, you need to call us, we’ll give them passwords in order to access our deed records.”

Knox County citizens needing to update their vehicle’s license plate registration can do so by calling either the Knox County Clerk’s Barbourville office at 606-546-3568, or its Corbin office at 606-258-8430. Payments are accepted via debit or credit card. The clerk’s office will mail citizens their registration upon payment.

Corey also announced that his office is currently bringing in about a fourth of the revenue compared to this time last year.

“Financially it’s hit us in a bad month. March in the county clerk’s office is our biggest month,” Corey explained. “In 2019, we took in more than $1 million in the month of March. Sadly with the way things are looking, that’s probably not going to occur in 2020.”

The county clerk’s office totaled $9.3 million worth of business for the entire year in 2019.

In other fiscal court news, the court passed:

- A motion to approve the county attorney’s delinquent tax report for the month of February for $5,029.24.

- A motion to approve the county clerk’s 2019 amended final settlement in the amount of $216,873.

- A motion to acknowledge the Knox County Conservation’s annual report for July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021.

- A motion to accept a bid for the surplus commercial kitchen equipment from the old Knox County jail. The bid was from Barbourville Shopping Center LLC.

- A motion to approve the judge executive to enter into agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management for the lease of county vehicles.

- A motion to authorize the county judge to sign a letter of support for the Friends of Boone Trace in their efforts of obtaining grant funding.

- A motion acknowledging Sam Watts’ term as commissioner of the Knox County Utility Commission will expire April 30, 2020, and reappointed him as commissioner on a four year term.

- A motion to accept the county’s road department’s recommendation to accept bids for dump trucks.

“The way this would be done is the trucks that we currently have on lease, are coming up to put those in an auction that we sale every year,” explained Mitchell. “And instead of leasing back, we want to purchase trucks that more utilizes and fits the application requirements up here that we need.”

The recommendation from the committee calls for the purchase of two trucks. The surplus money from the sale of the other trucks would be used to purchase additional road equipment.

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