VERSAILLES — Woodford Fiscal Court voted 6-2 Tuesday night to authorize the sale of tax-exempt bonds for the purchase of nearly 211 acres of farmland as an addition to Woodford County Park.
A second and final vote is scheduled for June 26 on the issue, which generated questions from some citizens in recent weeks.
Those questions were addressed in a public hearing after the vote. The Woodford County Farm Bureau asked a couple of weeks ago that no final decision on the land purchase take place until a public hearing was held, and fiscal court agreed.
More than 20 people spoke, and most of them said they favored the $1.5 million purchase of the "McCauley Farm" that adjoins the southern and western boundaries of the present 178-acre Woodford County Park, site of the county fair, an arts and recreation center, ball fields, tennis courts and walking trails.
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Proponents agreed with Judge-Executive John Coyle, who said: "When opportunity knocks, you need to answer, because it may not present itself again."
The county can't pass up historically low interest rates and the chance to buy adjacent land, Coyle said. Financing through KACo, the Kentucky Association of Counties, would have a fixed interest rate of 2.67 percent over 20 years. The first principal and interest payment of $79,933 would be due in August 2013, if the county approves on June 26, Magistrate Bruce Gill said.
Coyle said the county has a reserve of more than $1 million and could afford the cost of the financing.
"The real risk here is not seizing this opportunity," said John Peck, one of the people who spoke in favor.
Michael Duckworth, a farmer, questioned whether hidden costs might be passed on to taxpayers.
"Those are my concerns as a citizen of Woodford County," Duckworth said. "Will my taxes go up? Government can't provide everything to everybody. It's that plain and simple."
Bill Barrows of Woodford County Farm Bureau said fiscal court ought to think about buying less land so more could be kept for agricultural purposes.
"I would argue that you are taking it out of agricultural production," Barrows said.
Midway lawyer Hank Graddy Jr., who often deals with preservation and land-use issues, said he would feel more comfortable about the purchase if a conservation easement were put on the land. Graddy also said the county's land-use plan doesn't identify a need for more park space.
Coyle said the land could have any number of uses in the future. He mentioned building a reservoir for fishing and emergency use during drought, horse trails, camping, and an archery range.
On the vote to authorize the bond sale, magistrates Jackie Brown and Ken Reed voted no. Magistrates Gill, Charles "Bones" Webber, Larry Craig, Gary Finnell, Gerald Dotson and Duncan Gardiner voted yes.