STAMPING GROUND — A familiar face will be taking the helm of the Stamping Ground Fire Department as Assistant Chief Josh Cook was hired by the city commission to replace the retiring Chuck Helms.

Mayor Keith Murphy, who also serves as fire commissioner, recommended Cook to the commission. The commission was shorthanded with a vacancy that has to be filled, and Robert Jones on vacation, but Jones informed commissioners he had no issue proceeding with hiring Cook.

“I think it would be beneficial to go on and hire Cook,” said Commissioner David Clark. “You get a new chief in place, not that he doesn’t know the ropes.”

Murphy said he had spent time with the department, and the transition would be seamless to promote Cook and the department fully supports the new chief.

“I spent some time talking with Josh about the department, and I feel confident in making the recommendation to you,” Murphy said.

“I want to thank you for this opportunity,” Cook said.

“We are going to miss Chief Helms greatly after 41 years of service to the business,” said Murphy, adding deadline for applications was July 31.

Helms said it was a hard decision to retire, but knows the department and the community is in good hands.

“I feel you made the right decision to hire Josh,” Helms said. “He’ll do a great job down here. He has the backing of the department and I’m glad you all chose him. For us older guys, it is about having younger guys in place. I thank you for giving this young man the opportunity.

“I’ve told you from day one it was not about me, but making the department better and that was accomplished. Thank you for the support. I’m going to miss it, but when you know it is time to go, it is time to go.”

Helms’ final day is Sept. 30 and Murphy wants to have a formal change of command ceremony either Sept. 28 or 29.

“Most people don’t have the chance to see a change of command ceremony. It is an emotional and special time, and I want to give people that chance,” Murphy said.

Murphy said they have had a couple of inquiries about filling the Parks Commissioner seat, which was vacated when Will Hollon resigned due to a new job that required him to relocate. With Jones on vacation, they did not want to take action Tuesday.

Hollon’s resignation was official Tuesday night, City Attorney Joe Hoffman said, and the commission has 30 days to fill the seat or the governor will fill it. Murphy would like to fill the seat within the next two weeks, he said. Hoffman said the appointment would fill the remainder of the term through the 2020 election.

The commissioners discussed streamlining purchasing incidentals for the police and fire departments.

At first, they debated a debit card, but Hoffman questioned having a debit card tied to the city’s main account, and Commissioners Clark and Robert Duncan both asked if it was a $500 debit card is that per month or per purchase.

Murphy said there would be the same umbrella of accountability and would primarily be used for things such as candy for Halloween or parades. Currently, a firefighter or officer pays it out of their pocket then get reimbursement. Police Chief Roger Nowakowski said he could use it to mail a certified letter instead of getting a reimbursement check.

After discussions raised concerns over a debit card, the focus then turned to a business credit card or a reloadable credit card. The commission approved a six-month trial of using a gift card that would be reloadable with commission approval while exploring no-fee credit cards from various banks.

Scott County Judge-Executive Joe Pat Covington was in attendance, along with Magistrate Alvin Lyons, to deliver the county’s allocation to Stamping Ground. The total was $170,893.62.

“We are glad to be here and tell you how much fiscal court and myself values what Stamping Ground brings to the table and the county. Alvin is an important part of our court and served on our budget committee. I leaned on Alvin and it is important to him that the court continue to support Stamping Ground and Sadieville,” Covington said.

“I grew up right near here, but this is my home and very important to me,” Lyons said. “We are glad to do this and glad it helps.”

In other discussion:

— Maintenance issues on various properties throughout the city, in particular property on Woodlake Road. At the center of the issue is that the property owner said the city had paid him to clean the ditch line and Murphy wanted to know if the city wanted to do that again. He also wanted to confirm that it was city drainage and if it was, ask the person doing the city mowing if they can clean it. Duncan said it had been determined the ditch is the city’s, but who is doing the dumping on various properties such as mattresses behind the vacant grocery store and other places. Nowakowski said certified letters had been sent to the property owners to clean up the items.

“I hate it for the landowner because he didn’t dump it,” said Duncan. “Right now, the grocery is a vacant property and doesn’t have trash pick up. But once a piece of trash hits, more comes.”

Clark said the city needs to determine what property, drainage ditches, and other areas are city property and their responsibility.

“This keeps coming up in meetings, and if we need to do it by steps, but nail down what areas are our responsibility, we want to take care of our business,” Clark said.

Murphy said they need to put a list of what properties need to be addressed and get them wrapped up before winter.

Clark made a motion for qualified clean up at the areas discussed Tuesday night, which passed.

— The Farmer’s Market is likely done for the season since their produce provider has concluded his summer season. Organizers said attendance was OK, but still thinks people don’t know about it and a sign would be helpful. Murphy said they have a prototype for a sign that they can get made.

Steve MCClain can be reached at

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