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County to buy health building




The Letcher Fiscal Court hopes to alleviate crowded working conditions in the county courthouse by moving some offices to a nearby building that will soon be vacated by the Letcher County Health Department.

The court voted unanimously at its April meeting this week to buy the building which is located directly behind the Letcher County Courthouse on Broadway Street. The health department is scheduled to move into its new facility on Madison Avenue later this month.

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the fiscal court Monday that the county can pay $100,000 of the $200,000 purchase price immediately, then pay the remainder when new severance tax money becomes available on July 1. Ward said if the health department demands the second payment before the beginning of the new fiscal year, the county has enough money on hand to make the payment and could repay the funds from which it was taken when the new severance tax receipts arrive.

The court discussed the possibility of moving the Letcher County Sheriff ‘s Department into the old health building and constructing a skyway to connect the two structures.

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, the court voted unanimously in favor of a motion by District Two Magistrate Archie Banks to contract with TVS Cable of Hindman, the cable service provider for Whitesburg and the majority of Letcher County, to install the appropriate line, equipment, and software to provide a “government access” television station. Banks said the new system will be used to promote public safety and awareness, inform citizens about public meetings and events, and to provide tourism information about Letcher County.

Ward also announced that Governor Steve Beshear will be in Letcher Circuit Courtroom at 4 p.m. on Thursday to announce the awarding of a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for a water line replacement project in the City of Jenkins and a $30,000 Home land Security grant.

Benny Hamilton, an employee with the Kentucky River Area Development District gave the court a progress report on the new Pioneer Horse Trail which is being constructed parallel to Little Shepherd Trail at the top of Pine Mountain.

Hamilton said the environmental assessment of the project is nearly finished and that the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife has asked the court to publish a written trail plan. He said the court has obtained the services of a trail specialist who will be in Letcher County on Saturday to develop the plan.

Hamilton also said the Department of Fish and Wildlife has asked that several archeological sites be identified with markers and that a plan be established to mitigate any harm to the sites or the areas surrounding them.

Bill Meade of Kingscreek asked the court to place a second Dumpster at the Kingscreek Volunteer Fire Department. Meade said that although all Kingscreek households receive bills for garbage pick-up, just as all residents of Letcher County do, many still persist in dumping their garbage at the fire department. Meade said the volume is more than one Dumpster can handle. He said that while the dumping is a nuisance, the garbage would probably end up in a creek if dumping was halted at the fire station.

Magistrate Banks, who has been making an issue of the need to clean up Letcher County, said the most difficult part is to get people to stop throwing garbage over the hill. He said he would love to catch the people who pollute the county by throwing garbage into streams and creating illegal dumps so he could see them prosecuted. Banks said the litter problem makes no sense since all residents are billed for garbage pickup and can have their trash picked up at their homes.

Ward said it is important to educate the public about the importance of not littering or dumping illegally. He said a young woman who had participated in one of the litter abatement programs sponsored by the county told him she made her mother stop so she could retrieve a plastic water bottle the mother had thrown out of their car after seeing how much garbage impacts the county.

Meade also announced that a Magic Show will be held at the Kingscreek Fire Department on May 2. He said the Kingscreek Fire Department will accept donations to pay for the show. Ward told Meade that the county government’s annual funding for county fire departments will be available soon and had been held up because the Colson Fire department hadn’t turned in the required paperwork.

In other business:

• The court learned from Sheriff Danny Webb that he has applied for money from Kentucky’s portion of the federal stimulus package to hire two more patrol officers.

• The court voted unanimously to return an agreement to the Appalachian Industrial Authority to ask that language giving the industrial authority the final say in hiring an Industrial Development Director for the county be changed. County Attorney Harold Bolling said it would be a violation of state law which specifies that the Judge/Executive hires county employees.

• David “Butch” Chaltas asked the court to appropriate $2,500 from tourism funds to pay for expenses for the “Thunder on the Mountain” Civil War re-enactment scheduled during Jenkins Days in August and to replace the American flag at the Civil War Memorial at Pound Gap. Chaltas said Blackey residents Dean and Nina Cornett have donated several flags as well. The court approved the request unanimously.

• The court learned that the Letcher County Tourism Commission has events planned for May 8 and 9, including a bicycle ride on the Little Shepherd Trail, an art walk, music, and hikes in the Lilley Cornett Woods, Bad Branch Falls, and Pine Mountain. The Tourism Commission will also conduct an Appalachian Summer Artist Show with Appalshop on June 14.

• The court was told that June 13 is the opening date for the outdoor drama at the Little Shepherd Amphitheater in Jenkins. Director Don Amburgey also reported meeting with representatives of TECO concerning the acquisition of the Pine Mountain Railroad Tunnel. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming emphasized the importance of moving quickly in getting the rights to the tunnel and surrounding area.

• Jim Polly of the Old Jenkins High School Committee reported that paranormal investigators are still interested in looking for ghosts in the old school. Polly said there are possibilities to gain some income from their interest and that the “Ghost Hunters” television show on the Science Fiction Channel has also expressed an interest. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson asked Polly if he actually believes in ghosts and Polly replied that there are people who do and will spend money to look for them. Gibson said, “There are a lot of heathens out there.”

• Ked Sanders of the Friends of Letcher County organization announced the group will hold an event at the River Park in Whitesburg on May 9 to raise funds for Relay for Life. The event will feature all-day music, food booths, inflatable slides and other attractions. Sanders also said Friends of Letcher County will promote a Heritage Quilt Project and attempt to have local barn owners allow local artists to paint quilt patterns on their barns.

• Berma Matthews of the Parks and Recreation Committee announced a clean-up at Fishpond Lake on Saturday (April 25) at 10 a.m. Matthews said the committee will feed volunteers who will have to work for their dinner. Matthews also said the Blackey AARP Chapter will celebrate 25 years as an organization on June 13 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. with refreshments at the Blackey Senior Citizens Center.

The county government’s bank balances as of April 17 were:

• General Fund, $822,812

• Road and Bridge Fund, $1,392,501

• Jail Fund, $281,468 • LGEA Fund, $1,066,735 • Senior Citizens Fund, $93,641

• Forestry Fund, $7,522

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Account, $458,109

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account, $64,234


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