Whitesburg KY

County to spend $60,000 to hire 2 more deputies

The Letcher Fiscal Court has agreed to spend $60,000 to hire two more sheriff’s deputies.

Acting on a motion by District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, the court voted unanimously to pay for the two deputy positons with money from the county’s road and bridge fund.

Fleming said the transfer of funds is legal under rules that allow for money for police protection of highways. He said the additional officers will also be helpful in fighting the epidemic drug problem in Letcher County.

The court took the action at its July meeting after hearing about a growing problem with lawlessness among all-terrain vehicle riders in the Blackey area.

Blackey citizen Ray Adams told the court that uninsured and unlicensed riders on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or four-wheelers, are terrorizing citizens in the lower end of the county. Adams said he had called Kentucky State Police several times but when they responded the riders simply ran away into the woods not follow.

Lt. Kenny Terry of the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department told the court the state police have a nopursuit policy on ATVs for the above reason as well as not to endanger the life of the riders. Terry said the sheriff’s department is considering a similar policy for fear police pursuit might cause a child to lose his life.

“As soon as you turn on your blue light they take off,” said Terry. “We don’t know the answer. We do impound the vehicles if we can catch them. We can’t get a positive ID. That’s another option though. If we know who it is we can get a warrant.”

Adams said the ATVs do tricks like wheelies in city and neighborhood streets and his grandson was struck by one recently and received 90 stitches from his injuries. Terry said the situation is also bad in Mayking where his in-laws live but there is little the police can do without risking the lives of the riders as well as the pursuer.

District Two Magistrate Archie Banks, who lives in the Colson area, said four-wheelers regularly drive at over 50 miles per hour on Colson roads and streets and are a danger there as well. Banks said that on average, one ATV rider per week dies in an accident in Kentucky. Magistrate Fleming blamed lax state laws for the problem but said he understands how police officers feel about putting riders’ lives at risk by pursuing them in the woods.

“I’d hate it if I was a police officer who chased a kid and got him killed,” said Fleming.

In another matter related to the sheriff’s office, the court voted to allocate $3,210.48 to the department to cover an overdraft which Deputy Lashawna Frazier told the court had been caused by a software program used to determine taxation rates and collections. Frazier said she had been told by state officials that the program, which rounds off amounts to the highest dollar, is known for glitches and will be replaced next year with the same software used by the property valuation administrator’s office. Frazier told the court the funds will be repaid as soon as the current audit is complete.

The court also received a visit from Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute, a media program for area young people. The AMI students asked the court about possible opportunities for recreation for young people in the county. Judge Ward said the court is looking at possible facilities and sites for construction at this time and he plans to release more information on county recreational centers soon. Ward said he and Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto are working with the Governor’s Office for Local Development (GOLD) to find grant money for recreation centers and said there is some private funding a available as well.

“It will take a little while to get a facility of the kind we really want,” said Ward. “As soon as we get a better idea about funding and get some drawings together we will ask for input from young people.”

Magistrate Banks said the court would be happy to get input from the AMI students. Ward said the court has also looked at several vacant buildings in the county as possible sites for the main center as well as for temporary centers or smaller ones in the cities. Banks said the court had looked into using the old A&P building in Whitesburg, but officials were told it was unavailable.

“We may be able to do something temporary,” said Banks. “We need an empty building, in a city where we will have police protection.”

Banks also mentioned ongoing work at Fishpond Lake and a planned boat dock, store, and recreational vehicle parking area with hook-ups as recreation opportunities. He said the court is anxious to receive its funding for the new fiscal year so it can get these projects underway along with larger scale plans for recreation.

During the Treasurer’s Report, both County Treasurer Phillip Hampton and Ward praised the court for behaving responsibly with county funds. Ward said because the court had been able to cut expenses it now has a fund for emergencies and that by showing restraint in spending, the court will have funds to do some of the work on its wish list.

“We’re providing services for less,” said Ward. “If we can keep this up we can do some projects we have wanted to do since we came into office.”

In other business the court:

• Voted to allocate an additional $5,000 to each countyowned community center for utilities and other operational uses. The money will supplement the $5,000 a year each center receives from the Department of Parks and Recreation. Judge Ward said the added funds will not come from the Parks and Recreation budget.

• Voted to raise Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto’s salary from $25,000 per year to $31,000. Judge Ward said Barto has taken over much of the grant seeking and writing duties for the county in addition to his other duties. Magistrate Fleming said Barto is “doing the work of two people.”

• Voted to allocate $15,000 to the Property Valuation Administrator’s office for computer upgrades.

• Voted to allocate $200 per month for expenses to county constables who provide their own vehicles.

• Accepted a bid of $63 per ton “lay down” price from Mountain Enterprises for blacktop. Judge Ward said that by contracting with Mountain Enterprises to blacktop county roads for $1 more than the county can purchase the blacktop, it will free county equipment to do spot repairs. Magistrate Fleming said the county won’t be able to do large-scale projects without a state -approved roller anyway.

• Voted to allocate $500 each to Letcher County Youth Soccer and the Fleming-Neon Little League to participate in state tournaments. Each group will repay the court by working in the litter abatement program.

• Voted unanimously to renew participation with the Kentucky Transportation cabinet in the County Road Aid Cooperative Program for Fiscal Year 2007 – 2008. Participation makes the county eligible for $498,583 in road funds.

• Voted to add Betty Boggs of Blackey and Creda Isaac of Deane to the Letcher County Library Board, and to renew the terms of Margaret Lewis of Jenkins and Jo Combs of Van.

Bank balances as of July 13, 2007 were as follows:

• General Fund – $519,667.42.

• Road and Bridge – $1,436,327.08.

• Jail Fund – $167,151.88.

• LGEA (Local Government Economic Assistance) Fund – $533,454.79

• Senior Citizens Fund – $125,617.18.

• Forestry Fund – $3,113.17

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corporation Funded Depreciation Reserve Account – $393,145.05

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Debt Service Account – $250.26

• Letcher County AML (Abandoned Mine Lands) Fund – $0 (By law the AML fund is spent to pay for existing work as soon as it is received and is zeroed out by the end of each month.)

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