Bill to reorganize Kentucky Horse Park board passes Senate committee

02/23/2016 07:06 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would seek to reorganize the Kentucky Horse Park Commission and perform a full audit of the park passed out of committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, passed by 9-1 vote of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Labor.

The legislation calls for nine members of the board to be selected by the governor, which is half of the current number of the commission. Three would be selected based on their marketing; business, finance management or special event management, and the other six members would be appointed from a list of three names submitted to the governor by numerous equine associations in the state.

Former First Lady Jane Beshear is a current member of the board.

Thayer authored the bill after hearing numerous complaints about the park as well as people in the horse industry who complained that the park was pricing itself out of reach for a number of organizations who might want to use its facilities.

Dick Ray of Georgetown expressed concerns about the campground at the park and the process currently in place to make reservations.

“My first concern is why do we need ReserveAmerica to make our reservations at the horse park?” Ray said. “A lot of old people don’t have computers and they can’t get online.”

Kentucky Horse Park Executive Director Jamie Link acknowledged problems with ReserveAmerica, a nationwide online reservation system which was implemented during the administration of Gov. Ernie Fletcher, and wants to cut ties with the organization when the contract is up in June of 2017.

“We recognize problems with ReserveAmerica contract and we want to get off of it as well,” Link said. “We have to pay, I believe, seven dollars and fifty cents per reservation to ReserveAmerica.”

As for the higher rates at the facility, Link said that the horse park is a business entity and the prices that are implemented are done so with that in mind.

“My mandate when I arrived, and the mandate for I think a few years now, is that the horse park become financially self sufficient and independent of the state general fund,” Link said. “So our goal is to provide a quality facility and a quality experience for our guests, but to operate as a business.”

Thayer told committee members that an audit had been conducted by the Finance and Administration Cabinet, which covered from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014, that revealed a number of financial irregularities.

Link said the audit covered times at the horse park well before he took over as executive director, and he says that all of the deficiencies in the audit have been corrected by his staff and he would welcome any additional audits under his leadership.

“We would welcome an audit, that’s fine with me,” Link said. “The audit that was cited earlier was done before we even arrived at the park, and in 15 months time that I’ve been there, every one of those issues has been resolved.”

Thayer told committee members that he felt the overhaul of the board is needed as far as numbers and how board members are appointed.

“There is evidence of a lot of our boards and commissions, reform is needed,” Thayer said. “This just happens to be the one I care most about since it’s closest to my home and my district and I think 17 members is too big.”

The legislation could come before the full Senate as early as Thursday.


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