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Council hears business plan, cable complaints

A new opportunity to spur development in Fleming-Neon could come as the result of collaboration between Berea College and the City of Fleming-Neon that began earlier this year through the Neon Reformed Presbyterian Church and HOMES Inc.

At the regular September meeting of the Fleming-Neon City Council, HOMES builder Doug Brink told the council that collaboration between Berea and the city could turn Neon into a business incubator with funds and expertise to develop small businesses in the region. A group of Berea students visited Neon this summer, along with Dr. Peter Hackbert, director of Berea’s Entrepreneurship for the Public Good (EPG) program, with a mission to come up with ideas for economic development. Brink said they would like to take their work further and establish a business incubator in Neon.

Brink told the council that Berea College Appalachian Center Director David Cooke, who also works in EPG, is interested in helping to develop business in Neon and two of the students who accompanied Dr. Hackbert have expressed an interest in the project as well. Brink said Cooke is interested in developing funding sources for a business incubator and that the project will allow students and staff to meet with potential entrepreneurs to help develop business plans and secure sources of startup funding.

Brink said a training seminar will be held at Berea this weekend for non-profit leadership development as well as business development, and participants can apply for grants through the seminar. He said adventure tourism is one of the areas that interest the Berea students and faculty and that a number of funders are very favorable to adventure tourism as a source of business development. Brinks said the possibility of working with the city has generated a good deal of excitement at Berea.

In other business, several council members reported being inundated with telephone calls over the weekend because of problems with cable television. Intermountain Cable is the cable provider for Fleming-Neon and cable service was out from late Saturday evening until Monday afternoon. Mayor Susie Polis said she had received complaints about the outage as well as calls from people who were very frustrated because they couldn’t get in touch with the cable company. Councilman Tom Haynes told Polis he had figured out the company’s 800 system and had managed to speak to a company representative, but other than getting through, he had received no satisfaction from his call. Haynes said he had been told that service wouldn’t be restored until Monday.

Haynes suggested that citizens note the outage on their next monthly cable bill and ask for an adjustment in their next month’s charges, but Councilman James D. Collins read a passage from the franchise agreement that specified that only after a cable outage of 48 hours would any price adjustments come into play. Collins also reminded the council that the franchise agreement expired on September 14. Mayor Polis said she has not been contacted by Intermountain Cable about extending or renewing the franchise and asked City Clerk Janice Banks to contact the cable company to ask what its intentions are.

Polis told the council the city’s options for changing cable companies are limited and other companies probably could off er no better service than Intermountain Cable. Collins suggested adding language calling for a quicker response time to cable outages if the franchise agreement is renewed. Carlos Phillips said he had spoken with a cable company worker earlier that day (Monday) who told him he had just been notified about the problem earlier in the day.

Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Phillips told the council that water losses are down a few points to 32 percent, although no major leaks have been located. Phillips said a few minor leaks have been repaired and that the problem with dingy water that caused Fleming-Neon and Martha Jane Potter elementary schools to shut down in August has been taken care of. Phillips said the dingy water was the result of several things happening at the same time but there have been no complaints in recent weeks.

Phillips also said the city’s water supply is in good shape with both wells holding their own. He said he is switching between the wells when the plant is running for long periods to keep from depleting the main well, which recovers more slowly than the auxiliary well and will continue to monitor both wells. In response to a question from Collins, Phillips said that work on the Haymond Sewer Project is about 54 percent complete and the contract period is about 68 percent complete. He said there will be adjustments in the contract period to allow for days missed because of weather and other reasons, but that no change orders have been requested and no major complaints have been received so far.

Mayor Polis thanked the Neon Days Committee for putting on a very successful Neon Days Festival on the previous weekend. She said she had received a number of compliments from visitors and added that the entertainment and other aspects of the festival had been very good.

Polis also said a number of citizens had praised the contractors who took down the old Hazen Building and that most had asked what would be done with the property. Polis said former council member Karen Hall had suggested the city develop a “sitting park” on the site. Polis said Hall told her she wouldn’t mind seeing the city use funds allocated by the Letcher County Fiscal Court to create a memorial park in Fleming to be dedicated to her late husband Tim Hall to develop a park on the site of the old Hazen Building. The city has found it to be very difficult to locate a piece of land in Fleming for the park, and Polis said Hall had suggested the change after a ceremony in which a park bench in town was dedicated to her husband and the late Darrell Wright, a former council member and community volunteer.

Polis told the council she had thought of the Hazen lot as a possible parking area, but said there was ample room to allow parking around the edges of the lot and have enough space for a park too. She said she would speak with Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward and ask him to present the request to the fiscal court at its next meeting.

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