Whitesburg KY

Bolling tells court to follow rules on hiring, spending

County Attorney Harold Bolling has called on the Letcher Fiscal Court to follow regulations more closely when hiring personnel and spending county funds.

“You can’t just decide to let somebody work,” Bolling told the court at its May meeting. “You bid out contracts. You have to have terms of employment.”

Bolling also told the court that county funds can’t be spent without prior approval being given by a vote held in an open meeting. The cautionary comments from Bolling came after District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson questioned a bill from former magistrate Randall Caudill for servicing county radio equipment. Judge/Executive Jim Ward said Caudill began doing the work after an emergency was created by the death of the person who held the contract for repairing the radios.

“This casts no aspersion on Randall Caudill. but you have to have some method if you hire him,” said Bolling. “You have to know if it is an appropriate bill. There is a procedure you have to go through and you have to be on the record. You have to state the nature of the emergency and you have to have some basis for compensation. There is no basis to hire anybody without fiscal court approval. You can’t do anything yourself. You have to do it as the fiscal court. The court has to make a finding.”

In a separate matter, Bolling told the court that the practice of adding property liens for unpaid garbage bills to tax bills sent out by the Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb is probably illegal, and is having a negative effect on Webb’s ability to collect taxes.

Bolling said the tax liens for garbage bills are not proper under the authority that set them up. He said it will take a long period of time to straighten the situation out.

“There are three to four years of these things out there,” said Bolling. “It will be a big job to correct them. Penalties and interest are one thing, but what you can put on a tax bill is another.”

In another issue related to the sheriff ‘s office, District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked that $60,000 of the county’s $7 million operating budget proposed for next year be allocated to hire and equip two additional deputies. Fleming said the extra deputies are needed to combat drug abuse and drug-related crime.

“We have to do something about this drug problem,” said Fleming. “We need more deputies to do that.”

The court voted unanimously to approve Fleming’s request and include it in the first reading of the 2007-08 budget, which becomes law after the second reading is held next month.

Ward said belt-tightening on the part of the magistrates looks as if it will enable the county to end the current fiscal year on June 30 without being in the red.

In other business last week, the court accepted a bid package totaling $329,785 from Royalty Construction of Jenkins for work on the Old Jenkins High School building. The work includes renovating a room which contains the entry ramp for handicap access, completion of an elevator which will bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the remodeling of two classrooms into a meeting space for the Jenkins Independent Schools Board of Education.

A second bid from Lewis Brothers Construction came in at $409,397 with the bulk of the difference coming in the bid for elevator construction. Project Architect Lee Sims of Lexington told the court that both bids were to specifications, and that the bid recipient will be held to state and federal codes. County Treasurer Phillip Hampton said the Old Jenkins High School Committee has $350,078 in its operating budget at present. The county has been under obligation to provide meeting and office space for the Jenkins school board since it took ownership of the old high school building in the late 1970s.

The court also voted to increase rent payments for the Kingscreek Senior Citizens Center by $200 per month, raising it from $500 to $700. The center is located in a building owned by the Kingscreek Volunteer Fire Department. Fire department representative Bill Meade made the request. The fire department owns the building and performs all building and property maintenance.

Letcher Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Rogers appeared before the court to complain about the 911 paging system, which Rogers said continues to get worse. He also told the court that lack of approved radios is keeping two of his department’s ambulances off the road.

Rogers said the volume of ambulance calls has gone up recently and his department has two additional ambulances which could be in service if it weren’t for the lack of radios. Ward said radios are now being inventoried, and that changes in tower use have been proposed to give radios and pagers better range.

Rogers also told the court there was some confusion in an accident which occurred recently near Pine Mountain. He said a crew from Letcher Fire and Rescue arrived first at the scene and were told they could not work the accident because they were out of the department’s defined boundary. He asked the court to make certain boundaries are correct. County Attorney Bolling said the court should have established procedures in place to make certain the public is well served by local ambulance services.

The court learned from Judge Ward that the amnesty program for people who have delinquent sanitation bills is starting to pay off. Ward reported that 44 people have already taken advantage of the program. He said 16 customers have paid their bills in full and the rest have set up payment programs. The amnesty removed penalties and late fees from the outstanding bills if they are paid or arrangements are made for payment.

Ward also reported that he has discussed the possibility of Equitable Resources running a natural gas feed line to the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins, with Equitable assuming a portion of the costs in order to introduce a larger customer base for natural gas use at the park. Ward called it a “win-win” situation. Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest said the availability of natural gas at the park is imperative to attract some businesses there.

In other business last week the court:

. Advanced $500 to the Letcher Central Girls’ Track Team for expenses to compete in the 14th Region track meet. The court approved the advance after a representative of the track team said the team would participate in the county’s litter abatement. The team will earn $100 for each mile of highway that is cleaned up. The program is open to all registered organizations.

. Was told that the Smithsonian Institute has expressed an interest in the Old Jenkins High School building. Committee member Jim Polly said Smithsonian representatives told him money is available for restoration projects such as the old high school. Polly also said a local business organization has expressed an interest in acquiring the building.

. Approved a bid of $20,730 from Legacy Playground Equipment of Somerset for playground equipment for the county park adjacent to the Whitesburg Bypass. The court also approved a request from Magistrate Fleming for an additional $5,000 to help pay for setup costs.

. Voted to write a letter in support for Kentucky House Bill 501, which would help to provide funds for the Letcher County Cares domestic violence center in Whitesburg.

. Approved a request by Letcher County Jailer Don McCall to participate in an effort to persuade Congress to provide health care support for county prisoners.

. Learned from Letcher County Airport Board member Randall Caudill that the number of possible airport sites has been reduced to five. Caudill also asked Judge Ward to approve the addition of Knott County resident Howard Jones to the board. Caudill said the best airport sites include property in Knott County. He said the facility will be a cooperative project between the two counties.

. Voted unanimously to approve Letcher County Tourism Commission volunteer Sam Adams’s request that the county participate in the Preserve America project which will increase the number of locations in the county which can apply for tax breaks under historical preservation guidelines. The resolution also designates the fiscal court as the agency responsible for historic preservation in Letcher County.

. Approved Judge Ward’s request to allow the county to participate in a leasing plan conducted by the Kentucky Association of Counties for leasing vehicles. They also approved the purchase of a surplus truck for use at the landfill from the state for $7,500. The court also authorized Judge Ward to look at other surplus equipment.

. Approved a request from Judge Ward to give $250 to the Pioneer Horse Trail Committee to expand the number of prizes given for the drawings submitted for an official logo for the trail. 94th District Representative Leslie Combs also donated $150 to the fund. (Finalists and the winner appeared in last week’s Mountain Eagle.)

. Accepted a balance of $1,227.93 for 2004-05 property tax and unmined coal tax accounts from the Sheriff’s Office.

. Voted to set the speed limit for Cowan Park Road at 5 miles per hour.

. Learned that Litter Warden Darrell Banks had investigated six new illegal dumps, issued three court summonses, spent one day in court to prosecute litter violators, had three dumps cleaned up, had one junk car removed, and answered 23 complaints.

. Learned from Senior Citizens Director Trenda Kincer that 95 seniors attended Senior Citizens Day at Camp Nathaniel in Knott County. Kincer said seniors also participated in a “Brown Bag Education Day” at each center, during which the topic of discussion was medication. A pharmaceutical consultant was present at each center to answer questions. Kincer also reported that seniors are participating in weekly exercise programs, and that hot meal deliveries to homebound clients are progressing well.

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