Whitesburg KY

Council will tackle alcohol laws

The Whitesburg City Council will hold a series of meetings in July and early August to adopt new regulations required as a result of the June 26 vote to expand alcohol sales in Whitesburg.

Mayor James Wiley Craft told the council at its July meeting Tuesday night that the margin of almost 3-1 in the vote showed forward thinking and a desire to see the city make progress.

“They can see how much this can help us with a new revenue stream for the city,” said Craft.

Craft told the council if it doesn’t act within 60 days from June 26, the ABC Board will take over and advertise for licenses. He said the population of Whitesburg will allow for at least one package outlet but because the state dislikes bestowing monopolies, it will probably license two outlets. He said he is determined to get ahead of the ABC board and keep local control of the process and wants to appoint a committee to review applications.

“We certainly don’t want to lose control,” said Craft. “The people want it done in a tasteful and correct manner and as long as I sit in this center chair, it will be done. We’ve never backed away from the tough decisions.”

In other business, Mayor Craft reported that a federal lawsuit has been settled between the City of Whitesburg and Veolia Water, which previously operated the city’s water and sewer plants. Craft said the suit calls for the city to pay Veolia $29,000 a month from the water and sewer account through 2015, which he added is a good deal less than the city paid it to operate the water and sewer system. The council voted unanimously to approve the settlement.

The council also voted to turn over city-owned land in Stamper’s Branch that was previously designated for use as an airport. Mayor Craft said the city had agreed to give the land to the airport board when the matter was first introduced, but at that time the airport board was not a nonprofit entity and the city could not legally give it the land.

Randall Caudill of the Letcher County Airport Board said the airport board has taken the action necessary to become a non-profit and the federal government requires that the property be in the airport board’s name before it will provide its portion of 90 percent of the funding. Caudill said the state and county are required to provide the other 10 percent of funding and that the county has probably fulfilled its required portion. The council voted unanimously to deed the land to the airport board with the caveat that if the land ever stops being used as an airport it will revert back to the city.

Caudill said the airport will feature a 100-foot-wide, 5,000-foot-long runway with 1,000 extensions on each end and will expand to 10,000 feet. He said the airport will handle up to commuter aircraft and will be a tremendous asset for the county.

Mayor Craft also asked the council’s permission to hold off on signing a contract for funding that was brought to the meeting by Lisa Daniels of the Kentucky Department for Local Government for water line extensions in the Upper Bottom. Craft said he took the action in order to pay for resurfacing other areas in the Upper Bottom that were not included in the engineering company’s plans when the first set of water lines were rehabilitated.

Craft said he wanted to withhold part of the funding to pay for resurfacing the streets where lines had been laid and since the second round of funding had been made available, he would like to withhold signing the contract until the bidding process for the resurfacing is complete. The council approved and Daniels also agreed.

Whitesburg Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill reported that there have been major issues with pump stations this month and one had burned out Tuesday. He added that the starter on the John High Pump Station had to be replaced as well. Caudill said the pump that had gone down Tuesday had been in service since 2008 and will be rebuilt.

Craft praised the city staff and police department for their work at the city’s July 4 celebration featuring Percy Sledge and said it was the best one so far. He said everyone worked hard to make the celebration successful and estimated the crowd to be between 4,500 and 5,000.

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