Whitesburg KY

City may increase occupational fees

Lawyers and doctors may have to pay more money for the right to practice their profession in the City of Whitesburg.

At the April meeting of the Whitesburg City Council, Mayor James Wiley Craft appointed City Council Members Robin Watco and Frieda McFall to join him on a committee that will be charged with updating the city’s existing occupational licensing ordinance.

In addition to grossly undercharging some professionals, the current ordinance also regulates trades that may never be used again in Whitesburg.

“I don’t think we have any blacksmiths in the city,” Craft said during last week’s meeting, “and we aren’t likely to. I want to ask that we read the ordinance and make recommendations on what to delete and which fees to raise. Lawyers and doctors only pay $75 per year. I don’t think that’s right and it needs to be raised.”

Craft said the ordinance is “10 pages now” and should be “boiled down to five.”

“We will change rates and make some rates flat,” he said.

In other business, the council learned that if all goes according to plan, visitors to Whitesburg for the 2008 Mountain Heritage Festival will have a new attraction as well as a place to rest and watch the festivities.

Craft told the council that plans for a pedestrian bridge across the Kentucky River in Whitesburg have been finalized and are now pending approval by state officials. He said the bridge should be in place and operational before the next Mountain Heritage Festival in September. Craft said the council will need to advertise for engineering services and have the drawings submitted to Frankfort. He said the 16-foot-wide bridge will have low wattage lights for night use.

Craft said the funding, which comes from a $175,600 “T-21 Grant” through the federal Department of Transportation, is approved and only awaits state approval before the city can begin to draw down funds to get the project underway. He said the bridge will cross the Kentucky River from the parking lot next to the Letcher County Veterans Museum and extend to the city parking lot behind the Harry Caudill Library. The pedestrianonly bridge will have flowerpots and benches on which visitors can rest. The council voted unanimously to allow Craft to execute all documents pertaining to funding the bridge work.

Craft also told the council that he has instructed city workers to begin cleaning up along the banks of the Kentucky River and eradicating kudzu from the riverbanks in city limits. He said he intends to hire high school students to help with the clean-up in the summer.

In other business, Craft told the council that $70,000 in funding to improve water lines in the Fields Cliff area was put into the state budget as a line item, which means it is not subject to disputes over coal severance tax funds. He said the water line improvements will include two fire hydrants for the neighborhood as well. At present, the lines in the Fields Cliff area are not large enough to support fire hydrants, so this will make the neighborhood safer and give firefighters better access to water in the event of a fire.

“Now we can do away with the list the people on Fields Cliff use to schedule their showers,” said Craft, referring to the difficulties caused by the low water pressure.

Craft also told the council he had received quotes for wiring the City of Whitesburg with a new high-tech wireless sound system from Bentley Avenue to Madison Avenue. He said the system will include speakers posted in various sites and will enable the city to play special music on holidays and to announce special events or make emergency announcements in the downtown area.

“We will be able to stand in front of City Hall and people on Bentley Avenue can hear us,” said Craft. “We can play patriotic music on the Fourth of July, play Christmas music during the Christmas holidays, and make announcements for local businesses.”

The council approved Craft’s request to begin Phase One of the project which will connect speakers in the Bentley Avenue Area. Phase Two will complete the project with a wireless transmission center located at City Hall. Craft said he hopes Phase One will be operational by Memorial Day.

The council also heard a report from surveyor Richard Hall, who conducted an initial survey of areas the city wishes to annex. The project was expanded to include the entire city when Hall learned that the old survey markers are not in compliance with United States Geological Survey guidelines due to newer more accurate surveys available because of high tech equipment and Global Positioning Systems satellites used in making more exact determinations. Hall told the council the survey is underway and said he hopes to have two “ordinances” (sections) of the city completed for the May meeting of the city council.

Hall also told the council that the city will be over 2,000 acres when the annexation process is complete, roughly 2.5 square miles. Mayor Craft thanked Hall for his good work and recommended the council pay Hall for work done up until the time of the meeting which hadn’t been included in the “bills to be paid” report. Craft said Hall had paid for the work and should be reimbursed as soon as possible. Hall added that Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson had said the city has made a wise decision in getting the updated maps done.

In other council business:

• The council voted unanimously to approve Appalshop’s request to close Third Street from Indiana Avenue to Madison Avenue during daytime hours on June 13 and 14 during the arts center’s “Seedtime on the Cumberland” celebration of Appalachian culture. Mark Kidd, a member of Appalshop’s administrative staff, made the request and told the council that Appalshop is concerned with pedestrian safety during the festival and the barriers can be taken down at night. Kidd said Appalshop is working to build attendance and has scheduled Americana singersongwriter Darrell Scott for a Friday night performance in the “Big Tent.” Scott is Artist in Residence with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra’s Acoustic Café and won the 2006 Americana Song of the Year award with “Hank Williams’s Ghost,” which appeared on his “Invisible Man” album

Country music singer Kathy Mattea will headline the festival..

• Kevin Howard of Summit Engineering reported that work on the city sewer plant is proceeding well and said that water line construction in Whitco will begin soon. Mayor Craft asked if there are assurances that the city will have sufficient customers to help pay for the line extensions and Howard replied that although the project will pay for the work, there should be enough people in the initial hook-up to help defray costs too.

• The council also voted unanimously to have Mayor Craft draft a letter of recommendation for Appalshop to the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet.

• The council discussed the need for either new filters or cleaning the current set-up at the water plant. Steve Taylor of Veolia told the council that the Kentucky Department of Water recommends that when a municipal water plant reaches 80 percent capacity, it begin the process of upgrading capacity. New hook-ups as early as this summer could put the city water plant at 80 percent.

• Taylor also reported a request from the Letcher County Water and Sewer District to discuss the Blackey water connector and other city/county water and sewer matters.

• Mayor Craft asked that M&M Construction, the company working on the bridge at Pine Mountain Junction on US 119, be put on a pay-as-you-go basis for purchasing water from the city plant. Craft said the request doesn’t reflect on M&M but was made because other bulk water customers are pay-as-yougo and he doesn’t want to make distinctions.

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