Whitesburg KY

City, conservation board still at impasse on old building

The City of Whitesburg and the Letcher County Conservation District remain at an impasse after a public forum was held last week to discuss the future of the KYVA Motor Company building on Madison Street.

No one who lives in the Whitesburg city limits attended the meeting held June 17 to voice an opinion about the historic building the conservation district bought for $85,000 and later decided it would be more feasible to tear it down and build a new structure on the existing site. The conservation district board of supervisors was unable to gain input from the public as to whether the building should be renovated or what type of new structure should be built in its place.

After buying the building, the conservation district discovered that renovating the building would cost more than $400,000, according to Ron Brunty, chairman of the board of supervisors for the Letcher County Conservation District.

Brunty said the conservation district applied for a grant from the Kentucky Department of Transportation, but was denied because it wanted to renovate the building to use it as office space. Brunty said he has also tried to seek funds to renovate the building at state and federal levels, but was unsuccessful.

Whitesburg Mayor James W. Craft declared a moratorium on May 21, 2007 on the issuance of a work permit that would allow contractors to begin tearing down the building.

The KYVA building, built more than 80 years ago, is one of several downtown buildings placed on the National Register of Historic Places last October as part of the Whitesburg Historic District listing. The National Register, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture.

Brunty said the conservation district has a yearly budget of about $70,000 that is made up of $10,000 from state funds and $60,000 collected from real estate and property taxes. Brunty said some of that money is used to pay a secretary who works once a week and $650 is paid each month to rent office space.

Brunty said the conservation district wants to become self sufficient and said owning its own building would eventually help it reach its goal.

“With the state getting tighter with budgets and federal getting tighter with budgets, our day of getting outside help may soon be over,” said Brunty.

Brunty told the four people who attended last week’s meeting in addition to the board of supervisors that the conservation district is always open for suggestions about their building situation.

“Our doors are always open, folks,” said Brunty. “You can come and look at the surveys, look at the maps, anything we have is public record, there for you guys. We have no secrets, never have and never will. We’re just simple folks trying to do a simple job, but we need a new roof over our head and that’s what this is about. Only then can we get busy doing what we need to do as changes come about.”

The Letcher County Conservation District is one of 121 such districts in Kentucky. Funded largely by local tax money, the local district has the responsibility under Kentucky law “to coordinate assistance from all available sources – public, private, local, state and federal – in an effort to develop locally driven solutions to natural resource concerns.” The local office is governed by a board of “local conservation district supervisors” who are elected to terms by submitting a petition to the county court clerk’s office.

“We’re here for any landowner that just wants to take care of their property be it they live in the city limits or they live out in the county,” said Brunty. “That is what we have always been about is just helping the little guy. We don’t have a whole lot of money but every little bit that we can get helps them quite a bit we think.”

The next meeting of the conservation district is set for 4 p.m. on July 10 at the conservation district office located at 30-B Childers Road in Whitesburg.

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