Graham speaks to chamber

TORONTO – Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham was the guest speaker during the chamber of commerce’s Thursday luncheon meeting at the North River Avenue Christian Church.

Graham began by telling chamber members the county’s fiscal health is good.

“We are financially healthy,” said the commissioner, adding the county had a $1.2 million surplus carryover from 2012. “It wasn’t always that way in Jefferson County.”

Graham said the county’s health insurance plan once had a deficit, but commissioners have fixed the problems.

“We have three commissioners now who are all very business-oriented, and we try to run the county as a business,” he said. “We have 60-plus departments we fund. We can’t tell them how to run their departments.”

Graham did say the commissioners hold the purse strings for each department except for one – the county juvenile court. He said by law the county juvenile court can mandate from commissioners how they are funded, but “that’s never happened here. We work very well with (Juvenile Court Judge Sam) Kerr.”

Graham said the county’s industrial park is growing as well.

“We now have seven businesses at the industrial park,” he said, adding the park may have to be expanded because of more businesses interested in locating there. “We used to have just one, and that (business) was leaving.”

The commissioner said Jefferson County has a $14 million budget for 2013. He added individual departments present commissioners with a “wish list” for budgets for the year. Commissioners then take the recommendations and decide what individual departments should be budgeted for the upcoming year.

“We have downsized (in the county) through attrition and some layoffs,” said Graham. “We also just created a port authority. No elected officials can sit on the port authority board.”

Graham said the authority will give the region more clout in trying to expand its business potential as well as acquiring grants and loans tied to economic growth. He added those affiliated with economic development understand what a port authority does.

“We think we will be better off with (a port authority) in the long run,” he said.

In other business, the chamber once again will host its annual fashion show, this year set for April 6 at Karaffa Elementary School. The chamber is seeking sponsors and volunteers for the event. To volunteer or sponsor, call Dani Swearingen, event coordinator, at (740) 537-1250.