It was a small story but important news that Fayette and the 16 other counties in the Bluegrass Area Development District finally reached an agreement on how to manage over $12.8 million in annual federal workforce funds.
The Bluegrass area workforce program — intended to train workers and match them with employers — is better known for administrative shortcomings than job placement successes.
With this agreement, a new federal law and more state oversight, a new board can focus on giving regional workers a better shot at a good job. The agreement must be ratified by the legislative bodies in all 17 counties before it can go into effect.
Even though a separate, supposedly independent workforce board exists, an examination by the state auditor early last year found that the Bluegrass ADD was basically calling all the shots, paying all the bills and providing all the services — without bidding any of them out. The auditor's report was very critical of what it called a conflict-ridden structure.
Lexington-Fayette County, home to about half the workers in the district, was rankled because it received far less than half of the funds. That, with the issues raised by the auditor, led to Lexington's effort to split off and gain control over its share of the funds.
The compromise keeps the workforce area together but gives Lexington more influence, with the mayor always serving as a co-chair of the workforce board.
The other co-chair will be elected by the county judges in the 16 other counties. Those two co-chairs will nominate members to the workforce board, set goals and develop strategies for developing employment opportunities.
Equally important, under the new system the jobs of administering the funds and providing services must be separate, and all services will be contracted through competitive bidding.
This compromise provides a path to an effective, transparent and cooperative approach to developing skilled workers and creating more jobs in this region. It deserves the support of Lexington's Urban County Council and the county fiscal courts.