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County wants water treatment plant on Cumberland River


Building a water treatment plant near the Harlan County line has been determined to be the best option to get treated water to the residents of the Cumberland River portion of Letcher County.

At the October meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court, Kentucky River Area Development District Associate Director of Community and Economic Development Angelia Smith-Hall, who works with the county on grants and infrastructure issues, outlined other efforts made to find a water source for Cumberland River residents. Hall said nothing else has really materialized and she will work with the court and the Letcher County Water and Sewer District to seek funding to build a water treatment plant that will serve Letcher County residents as well as residents of Benham and Lynch in Harlan County.

Hall said the idea to build the treatment plant was the result of suggestion made at the October 2017 board meeting of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District by Roger Recktenwald, Director of Research and Planning for the Kentucky Association of Counties. Recktenwald told the board that according to Chapter 74 of the Kentucky Community Water Statute, any two public utilities can come together and form a cross-city or cross-county entity to create a water district, but the new district must contain at least two public utilities.

At that meeting, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he had spoken with Judge/Executive Dan Mosely of Harlan County and two of the three water districts in the upper part of Harlan County, Benham and Lynch. Since then, Ward has spearheaded the creation of the commission and a meeting was held on October 16 at the Cumberland River Volunteer Fire Department to authorize a feasibility study for the project. Mike Miller, outgoing KRADD Executive Director, told the court that U.S. Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers is very interested in seeing the water plant become a reality and that he “wants it to happen.” Ward added that funders like the regional, intercounty nature of the project.

In other business, the court voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling for full funding of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund without a taxpayer bailout as well as funding the United Mine Workers 1974 Pension Plan. The ordinance is basically the same as the one passed by the Whitesburg City Council last week and supports U.S. Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers’s RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1731). This bill calls for a $1 billion investment over the next five years from the federal Abandoned Mine Land Trust Fund to be used for reclamation and economic development in the coalfields. It also asks members of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation to support legislation to strengthen the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund by maintaining the excise fee at its current level and by not making black lung benefits more difficult to acquire.

Letcher Fire Chief Gary Rogers told the court there are still ongoing problems with pagers and said they are particularly damaging to the county’s two ambulance services. He said that a solution has been proposed by Carry Johnson of Tri-State Electronics. Johnson told the court that a tone and voice system will probably solve the problems. Judge Ward said the court will start looking for grant funding to get the new pagers.

Captain Barry Engle of the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department asked the court to approve declaring several more police cruisers surplus in addition to four old police cruisers it declared surplus last year so the department can dispose of them. Engle said the department badly needs a vehicle upgrade and said he believes the amount received from selling the old ones will allow the department to purchase a surplus vehicle from the U.S. Border Patrol. Engle said he hopes the incoming sheriff (current Sheriff Danny Webb is retiring) will be able to obtain grant funding to replace the Tasers deputies carry as well. He said most the old ones are about useless by now and that Tasers prevent officers from having to use more extreme measures. Judge Ward said that if any money becomes available the court will try to help with Tasers.

The court voted unanimously to declare the week of October 15 as Retired Teachers Appreciation Week. Marsha Caudill, President of Letcher County Retired Teachers, told the court that the 362 retired teachers living here put millions of dollars into the county’s economy and give countless hours of volunteer service as well. She and her husband Mike Caudill received certificates from the court declaring the week as Retired Teachers Appreciation Week.

The court issued a proclamation declaring that October 15 was Domestic Violence Awareness Day. Judge Ward said the declaration is one of the provisions of a grant that funds a victim advocate for domestic violence in Letcher County. The court also conducted the second reading of ordinances setting the speed limit for Kona Drive at 10 miles per hour and Doty Creek Road at 15 miles per hour.

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Bank balances for county agencies as of September 30

General Fund: $289,513.93

Road and Bridge Fund: $1,203,113.84

Jail Fund: $84,563.44

LGEA Fund: $748,166.48

Senior Citizens Fund: $227.71

Forestry Fund: $20,111.99

Letcher County Public Courthouse Depreciation Reserve: $23,069.78

Letcher County Public Courthouse Debt Service: $283,090.67

Total of all funds : $2,651,858.14

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