Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward cautioned delinquent garbage customers this week to make arrangements to pay their overdue bills before they are taken to court and face even more costs.
Ward’s warning was given during Monday night’s meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court after County Attorney Jamie Hatton reported that he has begun prosecutions on sanitation customers with seriously delinquent accounts. Hatton said he conducted one prosecution recently and has another scheduled. He said with the process now up and running he will accept the names of 10 delinquent customers at a time from the sanitation office and prosecute those customers one at a time.
Ward said that if the customers don’t negotiate a settlement with the sanitation office before they are prosecuted, legal costs and court fees will be added on as well as interest.
Hatton said the every household in the county is responsible for paying a garbage bill and if a household is not receiving a bill, they are in violation of the ordinance. If a household has not received a garbage bill, the responsible party should contact the sanitation department and sign up, he said. At that time they will start with a clean slate, which will not be the case if they are prosecuted for not paying their bill, Hatton added.
The court’s July meeting was mostly routine with the exception of one court member interjecting presidential politics into a prayer he was asked to give to open the session.
District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson called on God Monday night to help persuade the American people to elect a new leader in November. Gibson, a Democrat, did not mention the names of either President Barack Obama or Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
After Gibson’s opening remarks, the court settled down to conduct the business of the evening including prioritizing the $1.4 million initial appropriation of mineral severance tax funding for the next fiscal year, placing the extension of water lines to Mill Creek in Deane at the number one spot.
The Mill Creek area was denied water funding by the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands because the mining that polluted the water table in that area occurred after January 1, 1981 when regulations establishing Abandoned Mine Lands’ reparations went into effect.
Chris Yonts, who lives in the Shelby Fork area of Mill Creek, told the court that school will be starting soon and the water in the area is not fit for his children to bathe in, let alone drink. Yonts shared a report from the Kentucky Division of Water that said levels of arsenic and lead in the water in Shelby Fork are excessive.
Ward told Yonts the court is aware of the problem and that funding for extending lines into Shelby Fork should be available through state legislation governing severance tax funding. Benny Hamilton, a representative of the Kentucky River Area Development District, and agency that works with the Letcher County Water and Sewer District on funding, said he hopes Abandoned Mine Lands officials will allow the Shelby Creek and Mill Creek area to be bid with a scheduled second phase of the Deane Water Project to allow. Doing so would bring the best price per foot of water line, Hamilton said.
Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft attended the meeting to make a plea for the quick release of stateapproved severance funds for the City of Whitesburg. Craft told the court the city is currently engaged in a number of projects to improve water and other aspects of city life. In response to a question from District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, Craft affirmed that a portion of the funds will be used to defray tipping fees the city owes to the Letcher County Sanitation Department. Severance funds for Whitesburg, Jenkins, and Fleming Neon were placed second, third and fourth on the priority list and will be released at the same time as soon as they are available.
KRADD’s Hamilton also gave the court a report on water projects currently underway or those nearing completion. He said both Phase III of the Thornton Project and Phase I of the Payne Gap Project are essentially finished and added that the City of Jenkins and the Letcher County Water and Sewer District have reached an agreement, including price, on water the city will sell to the district. Jenkins will supply water to many of the Payne Gap customers from a tank located near Gateway Industrial Park at the junction of US 23 and US 119.
Hamilton said Phase I of the Deane Project will finish soon and Phase II of the Deane and Payne Gap Projects are fully funded by AML. Funds have been earmarked for release after July 1, 2012. Work will begin soon on the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek Project.
Hamilton also said a grant needed to finish line extensions in the Highway 160/Premium area was submitted to the Kentucky office of the Appalachian Regional Commission and sent on to the national ARC office with a recommendation for funding. He added that the Water and Sewer District has held the bond and a contingency fund from the contractor for the Red Star Project on Route 7 that is complete except for highway repairs. Hamilton said the District will probably hire another contractor with the funds to complete the repairs and clean-up.
Ward told the court that work on the Pioneer Horse Trail atop Pine Mountain was also near completion. He said a grand opening with Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear leading the first ride will take place as soon as the county receives charts from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife locating gates that will be installed along the trail.
In other business, the court voted unanimously to pay $4,000 for the county’s portion of survey costs on land that has been donated for a new county animal shelter. County Attorney Hatton told the court he has met with all concerned parties and an agreement has been reached, providing the county assumes half of the $8,000 survey cost.
“We need this in the worst way,” said Magistrate Fleming. “We haven’t been able to pick up dogs.”
Ward said the regional animal shelter in Hazard has suffered an outbreak of distemper, a viral illness that affects dogs and cats and has no known cure. Mortality rates depend on the condition of the dog but some symptoms last after the disease runs its course. Because distemper is highly contagious, all but 14 dogs at the center were euthanized, said Ward. He said the shelter is now closed for disinfection and will re-open after the entire cleaning process is done.
According to a letter from the personnel at the shelter, 198 dogs were euthanized and the shelter must be “deep cleaned” and painted before it can re-open on the scheduled date of July 23.
Ward also said that Letcher County has $300,000 for constructing the Letcher County shelter, which will be a “non kill” facility. The money was appropriated from severance tax funds several years ago but the ongoing legal controversy over property boundaries kept the property from being transferred.
Letcher County Treasurer Phillip Hampton also reported to the court and complimented magistrates and Ward on their fiscal responsibility. Hampton said that while some counties in the region have undergone layoffs and discontinued programs, Letcher County has continued to maintain a positive budget balance. Hampton said the county had initial bank balances (before fiscal year funding from outside sources kicked in) in the 2010-11 fiscal year of $1,783,387 and $2,699,397 for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Hampton said $916,010 of the 2011-12 amount should be considered as surplus from the prior year.
Hatton also told the court there are a lot of questions about what constitutes a public road. In response to a comment from District Two Magistrate Terry Adams, Hatton said he has met with attorneys from the Kentucky Association of Counties and spent an entire day researching case law and Kentucky Attorney General opinions on the matter. He said the term “public road” is not well defined and once he gets a satisfactory definition, he will share it with the court.
The court also discussed recreational vehicle sites at Fishpond Lake at Payne Gap. Ward said he and Judge Pro-tem Eddie Meade have a meeting with Kentucky Power scheduled for Thursday concerning power drops for RV sites and added that Nesbitt Engineering is working on plans to extend water lines to the lake as well. Ward said the lines will either be extended to individual RV sites or will go to a central fill-up station where RVs can fill their water tanks, depending on the availability of funding. He said the county would probably install “dump tanks” rather than build septic tanks at the sites. Magistrate Fleming said dump tanks, which will be drained by mobile septic unit trucks, are a better solution to keep down the possibility of polluting the lake.
Fleming also complimented the volunteers who made a recent fishing tournament for children at Fishpond Lake a success. Fleming said more than 120 kids participated, which was double the participation from last year. The tournament was held June 23 and fishing poles and bait were furnished free.
“They did a great job,” said Fleming. “There were a lot of volunteers working and thank you to all of them.”
Letcher County Tourism Committee Chairman David Narramore attended the meeting to ask the court to approve a resolution establishing Whitesburg as a “Kentucky Trail Town.” He said the designation would open the door for funding for the development of trails to Whitesburg from the Pine Mountain Linear State Park that runs along the top of Pine Mountain from Elkhorn City to Pineville and will enhance tourism opportunities for the county. Elkhorn City and Cumberland/ Benham/Lynch have already been designated as Kentucky Trail Towns.
Narramore also asked the court to approve a “leave no trace” policy for trail users to establish the “pack it in, pack it out” ethic for everyone using county trails so they will understand the rules and bring out whatever they take with them on the trails. He said this would help keep the trails garbage free and continue to enhance the beauty and tourism appeal of Letcher County trails.
Narramore also told the court the tourism committee will ask members of the public to come up with a name for the trail system. He said anyone who has an idea for a trail name will be able to cut a ballot out of newspaper advertisements and submit their idea to the county judge’s office. Participants can vote on several names put forth by the commission or write in a name of their own choosing. Names include: Mountain Heritage Trail System; Cloud Valley Trail; Valley of the Clouds Trail; Adena Trace, and The Letcher Heritage Trail.
In other business, the court:
• voted unanimously to reappoint Whitesburg resident Carl Banks to the board of trustees of the Harry M. Caudill Memorial Library in Whitesburg.
• voted to accept a recommendation from Letcher County Surveyor Richard Hall that the speed limit on Lynn Branch be set a 10 miles per hour. The court also conducted second readings of ordinances setting the speed limit at Bartesta Branch on Cowan and Harrison Branch near Isom at 10 MPH.
• voted unanimously to dedicate Highway 1862 at Thornton, mile point 3.078 to mile point 4.078 to Specialist 5 Raymond E. Roberts, U.S. Army.
• voted unanimously to dedicate Highway 317 at Neon at Goose Creek Road at Mile Point 1.932 to mile point 2.932 below Yonts Fork to Private Adam Bentley, U.S. Army.