Whitesburg KY

County attorney questions status of tourism board

Several members of the Letcher County Tourism Commission may have been appointed in a manner that is not compatible with either the original county ordinance or with state law authorizing the creation of county tourism boards, Letcher County Attorney Harold Bolling told the Letcher Fiscal Court this week.

Bolling told the court that after examining the ordinance creating the tourism commission, he found that the original members had been appointed to staggered terms. Bolling said he would need to examine both the ordinance and Tourism Commission records to determine if any of the remaining members on the board have exceeded their term of service and to make sure the new appointments are legal. Bolling said the statute set the number of members on county tourism boards at seven and he believes the board now contains more members than is legal.

“I don’t know if there are any legitimate board members at all,” said Bolling. “The specific nominating statute is difficult to figure out. The appointment of members is staggered. We can sort this out, but the size of the board is set by the state at seven members. This is a perfect time to get it straightened up.”

Bolling’s comments came after Lee Michael Caudill, a member of the Tourism Commission, delivered a progress report on the group’s recent activities and plans. Caudill told the court the commission has shortrange and long-range plans. Among the short-range plans are placing welcome signs at each end of the county, with one commemorating the Old Indian Bottom Regular Baptist Church on the west end of the county and another for “Devil” John Wright on the east end. Caudill said the signs will have to be approved by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Caudill said he had spoken with staff at the Letcher County Vocational School about the possibility of building three information kiosks so the commission can place information for tourists in them. He also said the commission wants to reach out to county youth by offering cash prizes for tourism-related literature and art created by students. Caudill said research shows that teenagers have the greatest influence on where families vacation and the commission wants the input of local teens on tourism attractions in the county.

Caudill told the court the Tourism Commission is currently talking to the Dawahare family about turning the old Dawahare’s Store in Neon into a museum. Caudill said the commission also plans to ask the City of Whitesburg about putting a walking trail behind the new wastewater treatment facility. He said the trail would run along the ridge behind the plant and overlook the soccer fields in West Whitesburg. Caudill said the city soccer fields are on the original site of the Ben Caudill Confederate Army Camp.

In other business, the court received a map of all Letcher County roads eligible for work under the State Secondary Roads Fund. Matthew Moore of the Kentucky Department of Transportation presented the map and asked each court member to look over it and see which roads they feel need to be included on the list.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming criticized the Transportation Department for its refusal to provide help to the City of Jenkins in tearing down a house that was threatening to fall onto Highway 805 between Jenkins and Dunham. Fleming said the DOT refused even to supply people to flag traffic. He asked if the house would have to slide onto the highway in order for the DOT to respond. Moore replied that DOT employees can’t legally work out of their area of operations.

Letcher County Jailer Don McCall presented a report to the court on co-payments from inmates for booking fees and other reimbursements to the county for expenses at the jail. McCall said that usually the court only hears requests for more money and he wanted everyone to see how efforts to make the jail more selfsufficient are working out. He said the jail has generated a total of $127,404 for the six months between July and December 2007.

In other business:

• The court conducted the second reading of an ordinance setting the speed limit for Ramey’s Fork at 15 miles per hour and the first reading of an ordinance setting the speed limit for Astor Fields Road at 10 miles per hour.

• Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto reported that County Surveyor Richard Hall has surveyed the proposed Thornton Park at 1.44 acres and requested the court’s permission to enter into negotiations for the property. Barto reported that he has enough money to pay for setting up the park and to purchase playground equipment left over from coal severance tax appropriations from last year.

• On the recommendation of Judge/Executive Jim Ward, the court voted to hire Paul Miles full-time as Emergency Management Services and Flood Plain coordinator. Miles had held the position part-time.

• The court approved the purchase of wide screen televisions and Nintendo Wii game consoles for each senior citizens center in the county. Judge Ward said the game consoles with their special control module can be used for a variety of exercises by seniors, sitting or standing.

• The court opened bids for insurance coverage for county employees but declined to make a decision until the bids can be studied more closely by a committee including Judge Ward, members of the financial staff, District Three Magistrate Archie Banks, County Treasurer Phillip Hampton and others. Magistrate Fleming told Tommy Grayson of Monumental Life that he took exception with a letter Grayson had written to Judge Ward about problems between county workers and Anthem, the county’s insurance provider, represented by Grayson. Fleming said the letter insulted current court staff and staff from the previous administration. Magistrate Banks said he took the letter as a political threat. Grayson apologized to the court.

• Magistrate Fleming asked the court to approve a $5,000 annual raise for Judge Pro-Tem Eddie Meade. Fleming said Meade always follows up on anything he is asked to do and is one of the hardest-working members of the county staff. The court voted unanimously to approve the motion.

• Judge Ward showed court members a letter he had received from state officials informing him that PRIDE funds would be cut and that funding for the Litter Abatement Program would be discontinued.

• Letcher Fire Chief Gary Rogers approached the court to complain about the performance of fire department radios and pagers. Rogers said the equipment only works intermittently. Ward said money has been appropriated in coal severance taxes for radios but the county still hasn’t received the funds.

• The court voted to use multicounty severance funding to help Letcher County Schools with a new vocational school, providing the funding is approved.

• The court voted to extend a memorandum of agreement for voting machines past June 30, 2008. Ward explained that at present, no decision has been made by the state as to what kind of voting machines will be used in Kentucky.

In reports from county departments:

• 911 Director Brandon Conley reported making memorial bridge signs to honor fallen veterans, repairing 911 signs and poles, making CDs with roads lists, repairing pagers, conducting 911 meetings, and doing various reports.

• County Road Foreman John Adams reported that county road workers graveled and repaired roads throughout the county, cut brush, worked on culverts and replaced them as needed, and patched roads.

• Senior Citizens Director Trenda Kincer reported that Letcher County seniors attended budget hearings in Frankfort on February 13 on a chartered bus to ask that funding for seniors be reinstated in the governor’s budget. Letcher County Senior Citizens Centers prepared and served over 9,000 meals in centers and home delivery and all homebound clients received their quota of meals regardless of weather. Colson seniors took a trip to the Amish food store in Knott County

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