County braces for plant closure
MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. — In tough times, we've all had to tighten our belts and save money where we can but what if you had to save a million dollars each year?
That could soon be the case in McCracken County, as one of its largest employers, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, could be closing.
The county gets about $1 million in payroll taxes from the plant each year.
That's about one out of every six dollars in county payroll tax revenue.
That money is used to fund services like the jail, sheriff's department, maintain roads and keep the county animal shelter open.
They're not sure exactly what they'll do but they know what they don't want to do: raise taxes or reduce services you depend on for safety.
They spent a lot of time discussing how the county would operate, if and when the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant closes for good.
The jail, sheriff's department and every county service you count on comes with a cost.
As county commissioners discussed, out of all the money makers in the county, U.S.E.C is one of the largest and it could be on it's way out.
"We are optimistic that they will be enriching uranium out there for at least another year but it's not a guarantee," Judge Executive Van Newberry said.
Now the fiscal court is looking for ways to cut costs, like converting all the county cars to natural gas. A gallon of gas costs about $4 while a gallon of natural gas costs only two, which would lead to big savings over time.
But will that save enough money? Newberry said no.
"The way to save money is to look at all the ways to save money," he said. "A little bit here and there does add up and that's what we're going to do."
But where exactly does the county cut? That's a question commissioners said has no easy answer.
Judge Newberry said he and other county leaders have talked to numerous representatives and the Department of Energy and expressed the county's strong desire to keep the plant open.
The city of Paducah doesn't get any payroll taxes from U.S.E.C., so it won't impact them like it will the county. However, city leaders know there are subcontractors and other companies that do business with U.S.E.C., so there certainly will be some ripple effects.
Those effects will likely extend even beyond Paducah and McCracken County.
Besides possibly converting county vehicles to natural gas, commissioners also discussed switching cell phone providers, a move that's estimated to save the county about $9,000 a year.