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County officials call for small hike in state’s gas tax

Fiscal court calls for small gas tax hike, awards bids

The Letcher County Fiscal Court voted unanimously this week to adopt a resolution asking the Kentucky General Assembly to implement a small hike in gas taxes to increase road funds available to local governments.

At its December meeting, Judge/ Executive Terry Adams said the roads are in bad shape throughout the county and at present state funding is not adequate to meet the need to repair and resurface them. He said the gas tax is a percentage of each gallon of gas sold in Kentucky and goes into the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s road repair efforts as well as a portion going to each county for county roads.

Adams suggested that if anyone doesn’t see the need for road repairs, they should drive along KY 7, which runs across the county from the Knott County line near Deane to the Perry County line near Ulvah. County Attorney Jamie Hatton read the resolution calling for the state legislature to increase the gasoline tax to address transportation needs. Adams said this is a step in the right direction if the county and state are ever to have decent roads. Second District Magistrate Sherry Sexton moved to approve the resolution and the vote to support her motion was unanimous.

In other business, the court accepted bids on services and materials for the county such as fuel, gravel, and outside work like electric work. Most of the bids were awarded to local companies and companies which placed bids and regularly do work for the county. However, when the bid for crushed limestone was discussed, a new bidder, Hansen Aggregates of Somerset, placed bids for various grades of crushed limestone that would require the county to pick the rock up at its plant between Somerset and London.

The parent company for Hansen Aggregates is Lehigh Hansen, founded in Pennsylvania in 1897. It is one of North America’s largest suppliers of cement and construction materials. Hansen Aggregates has quarries in Somerset, Mount Vernon, and Grayson in Carter County, along with locations throughout the United States.

Area aggregate companies placing bids were Mountain Aggregates in Jenkins, Martin Marietta, with quarries located at Gordon and in Harlan, and Eastern Kentucky Stone and Supply in Hager Hill in Johnson County.

During the discussion of the bids, Judge Adams said it appeared that Hansen Aggregates’ bids were substantially lower than the others and District Three Magistrate Maverick Cook asked if it was feasible to haul rock from Somerset for $10 a ton less.

Adams said he doesn’t think it would be feasible for the county to send its own vehicles to Somerset to pick up rock. However, the court did award the bid for transporting the gravel to J.J. Bates of Whitesburg. The court then voted to award the bids for crushed limestone to Mountain Aggregates, Martin Marietta and Hansen on a pick-up basis if it proves to be practical.

Representatives from Mountain Aggregates and Martin Marietta expressed some consternation about the court’s decision and pointed that many of their employees are Letcher County residents.

After the meeting, Adams told The Mountain Eagle that as an example, the county uses quite a bit of dense grade gravel. He said Hansen’s bid was $8.55 a ton for dense grade, picked up at its plant. Mountain Aggregate’s bid for dense grade, picked up at the plant, was $14.75 per ton and Martin Marietta’s bid for dense grade was $17.75 per ton, picked up at its plant.

Childers Oil of Whitesburg was the only bidder in the category fuel, lubricants and other petroleum products such as anti-freeze. Action Auto in Van and Consolidated Pipe and Supply in DeBord in Martin County both placed bids on culverts. The court split the bids, saying to purchase culverts as needed. Action Auto provides both metal and plastic culvert and Consolidated only provides plastic.

Mountain Enterprise was the only bidder for asphalt from its plants in Jenkins and Hazard and was awarded that bid. The court accepted bids from both Lewis Electric and Greg Hale LLC for electrical work. Both are Letcher County businesses, and both bid $30 an hour.

Brock Electric and Greg Hale LLC were both awarded the bids for plumbing as well for $30 an hour bids. Nathan Bailey was awarded the bid for carpentry at $27 an hour, and Greg Hale LLC was awarded the bid for concrete.

The court voted to accept the budgets from the Letcher County Court Clerk’s office and the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Office. The Court Clerk’s Office fixed the annual maximum amount for expenditures on deputies and assistants at $598,947.94. The 2021 budget estimates receipts of $5,893,900 and total disbursements of $5,890,097.94 leaving a balance of $3,802.06.

The Letcher County Sheriff ’s Office projects total receipts plus the beginning balance of $737,700, against total disbursements of $737,400, leaving a balance of $300.

Sheriff Shawn M. “Mickey” Stines also presented his amended 2020 budget with receipts of $771,200 against disbursements of $771,000. The annual order limiting salaries and expenditures for deputies and assistants is $479,000. Sheriff Stines requested the customary $110,000, which he said his office will repay in December 2021, and a loan of $20,000 so the office can begin the year with a positive bank balance and 2021 accounts can be opened. Stines said the empty account each year is a statewide problem.

The court voted unanimously to pay up to $2,000 in utility and other bills for county community centers during the COVID-19 crisis to help them keep their doors open. Magistrates and Adams also voted to advertise the Oven Fork Community Center for lease.

Judge Adams said he has been approached by several parties who want to lease the building. However, it has fallen into disrepair and will require some work, so the court voted to set a lower first-year lease price to defray the cost for the lessee to do the repairs.

In other business, the court voted unanimously to name a portion of Highway 805 from mile point 3.0 at Neon Junction near the intersection with Kentucky 317 to mile point 8.5 west of Jenkins between the intersection of the two U.S. 23 ramps with Highway 805, in honor of Specialist Four Kristopher Lucas, U.S. Army, Vietnam War.

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