Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, center, testifies to the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture about the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's motor fuel and pesticide testing laboratory on Wednesday in Frankfort. With Commissioner Comer are Steve Kelly, left, executive director of the KDA's Office for Strategic Planning and Administration, and Larry Cox, executive director of the Office for Consumer and Environmental Protection. (Photo by Chris Aldridge)
Comer Testifies before Legislature: Clean-Up efforts on department's fuel lab continue
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
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FRANKFORT, Ky. – Today, Agriculture Commissioner James Comer testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture regarding his efforts to improve the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's fuel testing program. Comer told the committee that he has cut spending drastically and that his office is in promising talks with the University of Kentucky on a potential fuel testing partnership.
"My first job was to plug the outpouring of money this lab was losing, and we are on track to save the Department close to $350,000 in operational costs our first year in office," Commissioner Comer said. "I'm also proud to announce that my office is in very productive talks on a partnership with the University of Kentucky that could result in improved consumer protection and taxpayer savings."
The legislative panel expressed its support. Committee members from both parties complimented Commissioner Comer and his staff on their efforts.
The Department's fuel lab, a project of the previous administration, was one of the subjects of an audit Commissioner Comer requested shortly after he took office. The examination, conducted by the state Auditor of Public Accounts, found the lab was hemorrhaging close to $900,000 per year. Former Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer had previously told the legislature that the lab would actually generate money.
Commissioner Comer was joined in his testimony by Larry Cox, executive director of the KDA's Office for Consumer and Environmental Protection, and Steve Kelly, executive director of the Office for Strategic Planning and Administration. They presented a timeline to the legislative panel, explained what happened with the lab, and reported on the clean-up efforts of Commissioner Comer's administration.
"We have all learned some great lessons from this process," Commissioner Comer said. "The taxpayers were sold a concept that had no business plan and no follow-through. My office is committed to righting this ship. We have made great progress, and our work continues."