The Letcher County Fiscal Court has approved giving COVID-19 work bonuses to the county government’s employees.
At the court’s October meeting this week, the county’s magistrates unanimously approved granting one-time bonus payments to county employees who worked any hours between September 1 and October 15. The payments will be for the equivalent of $13 per hour for all hours worked between those two dates by employees of the fiscal court, the Lecher County Jail, and the Letcher County Sheriff’s Office. The bonuses will be paid using money given to the county through the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan, which, according to officials, includes provisions allowing such bonuses to be granted.
“Those dates, we tried to get the dates that we were able to give this to the most people,” said Letcher County Judge/Executive Terry Adams.
According to the resolution approved by the court dealing with the bonuses, the maximum amount any one employee may receive is $2,000. Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton clarified a portion of the resolution. He said any person who was employed by the county between September 1 and October 15 is eligible for a bonus payment, regardless of whether that person is still employed by the county. He added that bonus amounts would vary dependent upon the number of hours worked in that six-week timeframe.
County Treasurer D.J. Frazier said the payments will likely be made in November in order to allow her to calculate the appropriate withholdings from the bonuses for each eligible employee. Frazier also told the court that the total cost of the bonuses could be as much as $230,000.
District 4 Magistrate Cheddy Smith suggested breaking the bonus payments to county employees into two separate payments: One just before or just after Thanksgiving, and the other just before Christmas. He said he was concerned a single lump sum payment would result in adverse tax effects on the payments for employees.
“I’m just looking at it to give them the most of it they can get,” Smith said, with the other court members agreeing with his statement.
Several court members said the taxation of the bonus payments would be the same regardless of whether the payment was made as one lump sum or two smaller sums.
“I just want to make sure they get everything they deserve,”
Smith said. “They deserve it. We can’t pay them what they deserve to be paid and they deserve everything we can give them.”
The court ultimately chose to issue one lump sum payment. The county’s elected officials are not eligible to receive bonus payments.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the court unanimously approved earmarking $500,000 in COVID-19 relief funding for the county’s ongoing broadband expansion project.
Letcher County Broadband Board Chairman Harry Collins said the broadband board plans to submit a proposal to Frankfort on Friday in hopes of capturing a $1 million grant. Collins said the earmarked funding is needed to act as matching funds for the grant, which would help push forward the county’s $12 million project with Zoom Broadband Services which aims to provide high-speed Internet access throughout the county.
“We need that bad,” District
5 Magistrate Bennie McCall said of the million-dollar grant.
Collins said the county has a “window” during which it can submit the proposal, and that the window “closes” on Friday.
Collins said the broadband board is currently working to build “the backbone” of the county’s eventual broadband network. He added that the first part of the county to be served through the network will be the Linefork area.
The million-dollar grant, Collins said, would be awarded by the state through its portion American Rescue Act funds.
Several other items of business were also discussed at this week’s meeting.
• Letcher County Jailer Bert Slone told the court that he is considering providing vocational training to some of the jail’s work-release inmates in the form of sewing and assembling mats like those used by inmates for sleeping. Slone said the purchase of new mats and the replacement of damaged or destroyed mats at the jail is costly, and teaching inmates how to sew and assemble them could result in a cost savings for the jail as well as the teaching of a valuable skill for inmates. He said replacing mats at the jail costs between $40 and $50 per mat.
Slone also told the court that the population of the jail reached nearly 135 inmates in recent weeks. The capacity of the jail is approximately 60 inmates and Slone said the jail typically operates with approximately 100 inmates. He said increasing food prices have driven up the cost of inmate meals from costing the jail $1.65 per meal to $1.73 per meal.
• A pair of veterans from Letcher County will be recognized for their service. U.S. Marine Cpl. E-4 James M. Caudill will have his name placed on the Blackey Memorial Wall along Main Street in Blackey; and U.S. Army Spc. 5th Class James H. Collie will have his name placed along KY 7 South at Jeremiah. The court unanimously approved both honors.
• The court appointed two people to local citizen advisory boards. Mike Caudill was appointed to the Letcher County Extension District Board. Caudill was nominated by Magistrate Cheddy Smith and the nomination was seconded by District 2 Magistrate Sherry Sexton. In another appointment, Jeanette Ladd was reappointed to the county library board after being nominated by District 1 Magistrate Jack Banks. Magistrate Benny McCall seconded Ladd’s nomination. Both appointments were made with unanimous approval.
• Letcher County Sheriff Mickey Stines presented the court with his office’s 2020 “fee account” audit, which was approved unanimously by the court. Stines also delivered a check in the amount of $8,956.72 to the court, which accepted the check before returning it to the sheriff to help fund his office.
• The court also heard a complaint from Greg Chandler, a resident of Hampton Branch between Whitesburg and Cowan, who told the court that a county contractor, Greg Hale Construction, damaged his property during a culvert replacement project by the county early this year and has thus far failed to repair the damage. Chandler said Hale promised to repair the damage last spring but has claimed to be “covered up” with other county work and could not give Chandler an estimate on when he could repair the alleged damage.
Judge/Executive Terry Adams asked County Attorney Jamie Hatton if the county could legally repair the damage if Hale could not. Hatton said the county could legally do so since the culvert installation was a county project. Adams said would visit Chandler’s home, and added that he hopes to get the situation taken care of without the county incurring any additional costs.