The Whitesburg City Council will hold a special meeting after the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s presentation of options for a proposed intersection improvement near the entrance to Main Street at the Whitesburg bypass.
The highway department meeting will be held at the Letcher County Extension Office on February 19 beginning at 6 p.m. Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft announced during the city council’s regular February meeting Tuesday that the council will meet afterward to deliberate information it is presented with by Transportation Cabinet officials.
Whitesburg businessman Kelvin Eldridge, owner of Bella Home Furnishings, told the council Tuesday that a group of city business owners and downtown renters would like to meet with the council and representatives of the Cabinet before a decision is made on what to do with the intersection at the foot of School Hill. Eldridge asked if the business leaders and concerned citizens could get together with the council before the presentation, but Craft said it would be more feasible if the groups met before the council holds its special meeting, to be held following the presentation.
Eldridge told the council that he has asked other business owners to attend council meetings on a regular basis in order to be aware of city business and to make sure their voices are heard concerning matters that affect them. Becky Pigman, coowner of Icing on the Cake located on Main Street, asked the council to enforce the downtown two-hour parking ordinance. She said a van has been parked directly in front of her business for several days. Mayor Craft said the city police will begin writing tickets to address parking violations.
Owen Wright, who owns the Western Auto store on Main Street, also mentioned congestion caused by people parking illegally around the Letcher County Sherriff ’s Department and Letcher County Jail. Wright said that the old city lot once charged 50¢ per hour to park is a free lot now, but the sign that shows parking rates is still up. He said a lot of people don’t use the lot for that reason.
In other business, Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill reported that he was unable to attend last month’s meeting because of ongoing repairs on water lines. Caudill said the city had three major leaks in January including one on a two-inch line that lost a sizeable amount of water. Caudill told the council the city water plant produced 220,097,952 gallons of treated water in 2014, which he said was about 75 percent of the total capacity. He also said the city wastewater treatment plant will require a new pump that will cost $7,500. He said the old one is beyond repair.
At Mayor Craft’s request, Caudill also explained the Craft’s Colly Sewer Project. He told the assembly that the Letcher County Water and Sewer District is acting as administrator on the project and when the construction is complete, the lines will be handed over to the city and wastewater will be treated at the city’s treatment plant. In return, the county will take over water lines running from a master meter behind Frazier’s Farmer Supply extending to Cowan Mountain. Craft said it is a winwin situation, and will reduce the amount of untreated waste going into the Kentucky River above the city’s water intake while also turning maintenance on the Cowan lines over to the county.
In a related matter, the council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to allow the contractors for the Craft’s Colly Sewer Project to use city streets for construction purposes. The council also heard the first reading of Ordinance 2015-1, which updates the city’s participation in the Federal Flood Insurance Program and adopts the new FEMA Elevation Plans. The council will hear the second reading at the next meeting and a vote will be held at that time.
The council also heard a request from Whitesburg resident Connie Bates, asking that a street in the Caudilltown area be dedicated to World War II U.S. Army Veteran Henry Hall. Council member Robin Bowen-Watko brought up a previous council decision not to name city streets for veterans or others, and Mayor Craft reminded Bates he had told her the same thing in an earlier conversation. However, Craft asked the council to decide on dedicating the street (not renaming it) with a vote and Councilman James Bates made a motion to allow it. The council split three to three with Bates, Derek Barto and Larry Everidge voting yes and Bowen-Watko, Earlene Williams and Sheila Shortt voting no. Bowen-Watko said she voted no because of the earlier council decision.
Mayor Craft was called on to break the tie and voted yes, to allow for the street to be dedicated to Hall, although he said it was against his better judgment. Craft also asked that the council draft an ordinance to deal with future requests.
Louise Vasher, an AmeriCorps/VISTA worker who is working in the SOAR Project, also reminded the council that the second SOAR Session will be held on Monday, February 16 from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Kentucky Expo Center at Pikeville.