Whitesburg KY

County may obtain loans to speed up water line projects

Borrowing up to $20 million could get lines built quickly, judge says

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he is exploring the possibility of securing up to $20 million in low-interest loans to make it possible to extend water and sewer service throughout the county in one fell swoop rather than continuing on a more conservative course set by the Letcher County Water and Sewer District when it was formed 12 years ago.

Ward made the announcement Monday night during Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest’s monthly report to the Letcher Fiscal Court. Ward told DePriest he was ready to take the necessary steps to “go ahead and get it (water and sewer service) in.”

Ward told DePriest the lack of infrastructure has hurt the county’s ability to recruit business. He said 36 percent of Letcher County’s residents now have public water, compared with 90 percent of residents in some of the neighboring counties.

DePriest said he is often asked about the percentage of households in the county which have access to treated water by businesses when he tries to recruit them.

“We’re looking to go ahead and borrow the money,” said Ward. “If we’re ever going to get it, that’s what we’re going to have to do. We have to get prepared. We have to get ready if it takes borrowing the money through low-interest loans.”

Ward said he has spoken with several funding agencies as well as agencies which work with local governments like the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (part of the Governor’s Office for Local Development) and the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO) concerning the possibility of obtaining the loans.

Ward said he gets calls every day asking for help with water, and that the recent drought has made the situation worse. He said if it is necessary to borrow money, the court will have to take that action.

“We have to do something different,” said Ward. “The only way is to do what we are talking about.”

District Two Magistrate Archie Banks said the court could still apply grant funding to water and sewer projects, but instead of waiting years until funding packages were complete, the county would be actually extending lines while they put funding together. Ward said he has spoken with KACO representatives who said they will help him figure out loans and payments.

“We can still apply for grants,” said Banks. “But in the meantime we will be putting in water lines.”

In a related matter, the court voted unanimously to fund the $45,000 annual salary that will be paid to the director for the county’s Water and Sewer District. The position remains vacant.

In other business, the court approved a bid for a boat dock at Fishpond Lake from Rusty’s of Shelbiana for $37,500.

Ward told the court that Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto had just learned that the county has been awarded a grant of $20,000 from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ward said Barto had applied for the grant earlier this year and was just told it had been approved. The boat dock will be 100 feet wide and located near the dam. Ward said it will be handicapaccessible and will have a small store for a bait shop to provide basics for campers and fishermen at the lake. Construction on the dock will begin after October 15, when the Fish and Wildlife grant will be available.

Ward also said the court will also look into getting a grant to pay for the development of a recreational vehicle park at the lake.

Parks and Recreation Board Chair Berma Matthews asked about the possibility of having a full-time security person at the lake, and Ward said that a sheriff’s deputy currently lives in the county-owned trailer there and takes care of security at night but that full-time security is still necessary.

The court also voted to apply $300,000 in coal severance tax funds, $150,000 annually in 2008 and 2009, to build a low-kill-rate animal shelter in Letcher County. A delegation led by local animalrescue enthusiasts Dana Outlaw and June Maggard approached the court and asked for the funding as well as for an ordinance to prevent cruelty and neglect to animals. Outlaw told the court that at present, an anti-cruelty group she directs is powerless to take abused and neglected animals from owners and that a new ordinance will be necessary to allow the sheriff’s office to assist their efforts.

Maggard said that each member of the group, Pawz and Clawz, has rescued a number of abused and neglected animals, but the group has reached the maximum of its abilities to provide further assistance. She said that Sheriff Danny Webb has worked with them as much as possible, but that his hands are tied without having laws to prevent neglect and abuse.

Outlaw said the things she has seen in her work to rescue animals have shaken her. She showed the court pictures of a litter of very young puppies a man threw into a creek to drown. Outlaw said she went into the creek and got the puppies but only one survived. She produced the small dog, which just fit in her hand, from her purse.

Outlaw said Pawz and Clawz sponsored a successful spay and neuter clinic with the help of volunteer veterinarians from Louisville, and has another one planned for November 2 and 3. She said the group hopes to conduct the clinics every other month but the most pressing need is for a shelter where animals will be treated and kept for adoption rather than being killed.

“There is a lot of animal cruelty in Letcher County,” said Outlaw. “I’ve seen things I didn’t want to see. Not having a shelter looks bad on Letcher County.”

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming said the problem with animals is one that has plagued the county during the entire time he has served as magistrate. He said he receives more complaints about dogs than anything else. County Attorney Harold Bolling agreed with Fleming and said the problem is ongoing.

“We have a multitude of dog problems in this county,” said Bolling. “Controlling dogs is a big issue both ways. Some kind of control is way past due.”

Fleming made the motion to provide the funding and District One Magistrate Bobby Lewis, who Outlaw said had helped her group before, seconded. The vote was unanimous in favor of providing the funds. Bolling said he will begin work on an ordinance and may look at successful ordinances in other counties as a model.

“A shelter is an investment we need to make for the county’s sake,” said Fleming. “This is something that needs to be done. This may not be enough (money) but it is a start.”

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