Whitesburg KY

County workers will be tested for drugs

Letcher County workers will be subject to random drug testing as a result of action taken at the June meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court.

The court voted 6-0 last week to begin conducting random drug tests on county employees. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson moved to begin the testing and District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming seconded.

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward said drug testing will help lower county insurance rates. County Attorney Harold Bolling told the court to make certain every county employee is provided with a copy of the updated personnel policy which includes the drug-testing provision.

The court’s action comes in the wake of a much-rumored investigation into the alleged misuse of public funds by a county employee who is believed to have a drug problem. No criminal action has been taken as a result of the investigation.

In other business, the court appointed several new members to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District. Judge Ward said the appointments were made to replace members who were retiring, leaving on their own, or whose term had expired.

Those appointed to the Water and Sewer District’s board of directors include Chalmer Craft of Premium, L.R. Buchanan of Partridge, and Phillip Back of Colson. Jim Flynn of Blackey will continue to serve his current term.

County Attorney Bolling told the court that Don Profitt, director of HOMES Inc., is resigning one year early because of his workload.

Ward said he would also like to appoint Rick Damron of Jenkins to the board but Bolling said that because Damron is a member of the Jenkins City Council, which has business connections with the Water and Sewer District, he will need to look into the matter further before Ward makes the appointment. Damron is an engineer and has worked on water and sewer issues as a former and current member of the Jenkins City Council.

The court also passed a resolution designating the month of July as Mountain Comprehensive Health Care Corporation Month in Letcher County. The designation is intended to recognize the Whitesburg-based health care provider for its many contributions to health care in the region.

Magistrate Fleming made the motion to honor MCHC, which was created by the federal government as part of the War on Poverty, and told the court he and several of his family members have benefitted greatly from MCHC’s presence in the county. Fleming told the court MCHC has improved the quality of life for everyone in Letcher County.

“This is to show appreciation to all the employees and let them know how much we appreciate them,” said Fleming. “And I want to thank Lois Baker for all she has done for Letcher County.”

Proponents of the Pioneer Horse Trail also attended the court meeting. 94th District State Representative Leslie Combs told the court she had invited representatives of the horse trail committee, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife along with Shad Baker of the Pine Mountain Trail Conference to attend the meeting. The conference is concerned with the Pine Mountain Linear State Park, a historic trail that runs the length of Pine Mountain, from the Breaks Interstate Park to Pine Mountain State Park in Pineville. Karen Alexy, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife division director, and Morgain Sprague, general counsel for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, joined in the discussion to represent Fish and Wildlife.

Combs told the court she feels that having several discussions all around the issue of the proposed horse trail, which would run through the Doug Hensley Wildlife Management Area, managed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, is counterproductive and she wanted to get all the interested parties together under one roof. Second District Magistrate Archie Banks suggested the fiscal court meeting as a possible site for such a gathering at the June meeting of the horse trail committee. Combs said she believes the horse trail, along with the linear state park and other tourist-related efforts is an important piece of future economic development for the region.

“My goal is to move Letcher County forward,” said Combs. “Tourism is our next great industry for Letcher County. We need people to get excited and rally behind these ideas, to work together through the issues. I want it all, the walking trail and the horse trail.”

Karen Alexy told the group that she will need to conduct a further examination of the proposed trail route to make certain it does not damage the fragile ecosystem in the WMA. Alexy said she will need information on how the trail will be built and maintained and what kind of riding pressure it will be subject to as well.

“Our position is to learn more about the trail,” said Alexy. “This habitat is a central area for bears in the state.”

Morgain Sprague told the court that whatever the outcome is, the WMA will be closed to riders during deer season. Sprague also said the stateowned road, which runs through the WMA and connects US 119 with the Kingdom Come State Park, was paved through a loophole and was finished before the Department of Fish and Wildlife could respond.

Judge Ward told Alexy the court will be happy to work with the department and will provide the information requested in a letter from Dr. Jonathan W. Gassett, commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The letter, which listed a number of steps the horse trail committee must take to comply with the department’s information needs, was reported in detail in the June 13 edition of The Mountain Eagle.

Shad Baker told the court the Pine Mountain Trail Conference is not opposed to the horse trail, but that members want to make certain it is built the correct way to minimize damage to the mountain. Baker said the ultimate authority to grant access to the WMA rests with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Ward said the county has something unique in Pine Mountain and said that the court doesn’t want to damage the WMA either. Sprague told court members to remember they are talking about putting a new trail in an environmentally sensitive area. She said Fish and Wildlife’s first duty is to serve the interests of the holders of Kentucky Hunting and Fishing Licenses, which pay for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Nobody in Fish and Wildlife is anti-horseback riding as long as it is compatible with our mission,” said Alexy. “We need more information. That’s all we are asking for.”

Members of the Pioneer Horse Trail Committee, court members, and representatives of the Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct a “walkthrough” of the proposed trail site on July 2.

The court also:

+Learned that birthday gifts for Pelma Dixon of Jenkins on the occasion of her 90th birthday have raised over $1,000 for the Old Jenkins High School renovation project. Jim Polly of the Old Jenkins High School Committee told the court Mrs. Dixon asked that donations be made to the school in lieu of gifts. Polly also told the court he is working with the Smithsonian Institute on grant proposals for the school and will hold a fundraising dinner and silent auction on October 12.

+Heard a request for a youth recreation center in McRoberts.

+Discussed reworking an ordinance on blighted and deteriorated property in the county. County Attorney Bolling reminded the court that the last such ordinance he presented to the court was voted down, but said he will work with magistrates and Ward to get an ordinance which will suit the county’s needs.

+Voted to approve the second reading of an ordinance which sets the speed limit on Cowan Park Road at 5 miles per hour.

+Accepted the First Quarterly Appropriation installment from Property Valuation Administrator Randy Hall for $6,255.75.

In reports from county departments:

+County Litter Warden Darrell Banks reported checking 13 dumps and having four cleaned up by those who dumped garbage on the sites. Banks reported finding eight names at the dump sites. He answered 18 complaints and had two houses cleaned up by property owners.

+Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto reported that repairs on the Whitesburg Tennis Courts are underway, and that playground equipment for the Letcher County (Bypass) Park in Whitesburg arrived on June 21. A new swing set has been set up at Fishpond Lake. Barto also reported that he is seeking money to build a dock at the Fishpond Lake dam. The design for the proposed skate park is also complete, and Barto said he hopes to advertise for construction bids and have the project completed in August.

Bank balances as of June 15, 2007 are as follows:

+General Fund – $477,481.83

+Road and Bridge – $1,496,447.16

+Jail Fund – $102,714.51

+LGEA Fund – $937,507.95

+Senior Citizens Fund – $84,476.12

+Forestry Fund – $2,837.61

+Letcher County Public Courthouse Corporation Funded Depreciation Reserve Account – $387,464.55

+Letcher County Public Courthouse Corporation Debt Service Account – $249.90

+Letcher County Abandoned Mile Lands Fund – $0.00

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