Dog owners in Letcher County may soon have to pay $2 per animal in annual licensing fees.
At its July meeting this week, the Letcher County Fiscal Court took the first step toward licensing dogs in an effort to stem the problems associated with strays and mistreated animals. The move came after June Maggard of Eolia, a longtime animal rights activist who regularly feeds and cares for stray dogs, told the court the problem is getting worse and said there is a real need to control strays.
A motion to institute the small fee came during a discussion held after Mrs. Maggard asked if Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton had made any headway in crafting an ordinance to combat the animal control problem here. Hatton told Mrs. Maggard that state law works pretty well in case of cruelty to animals, which includes starvation, but that local ordinances can be much more specific toward addressing problems with strays and licensing laws.
Mrs. Maggard told Hatton she is 86 years old and she started feeding and taking in stray dogs 25 years ago, but her age makes it difficult to get out and round them up now. However, she still feeds them. She also praised Dana Outlaw, another animal activist, who she said works tirelessly to feed and re-locate stray dogs. She said that some local residents donate dog food to both her and Outlaw and that some stores, such as Food City, also donate food. Maggard also said that animal cruelty is a sign of worse things and that it should be prosecuted.
“If you are cruel to an animal, you will be cruel to anybody,” said Maggard. She pointed to a recent highly publicized case of animal cruelty where a dog was found in Letcher County that had been skinned, saying it was purely evil. Hatton replied that the police have a suspect in that crime and that prosecutors need more evidence to make sure the suspect is convicted.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming made the motion to autho- rize Hatton to draft the ordinance to institute a $2 licensing fee for dogs after noting that he has been told of three recent incidents when stray dogs have bitten people. Fleming’s motion was OK’d by a vote of 6-0.
“If you care about your dog, $2 isn’t much,” said Fleming. He added that the court needs to look into the possibility of bringing in a spay and neuter clinic on a regular basis that will offer low cost sterilization for dogs and cats.
District Three Magistrate Woody Holbrook suggested that the court might offer a $1,000 scholarship to a local resident who attends veterinary school with the stipulation that the student helps with spay and neuter clinics.
Angela Smith Hall, Community Resources Planner with the Kentucky River Area Development District, told the court that the regional animal shelter has a regular spay and neuter program at the Hazard site. District Four Magistrate Keith Adams said there is an annual spay and neuter clinic that comes to the old Calvary College Campus at Letcher. He said it had just recently been there.
Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he will have his office round up information on spay and neuter programs and put the information on brochures and make it available on the county-owned Government Channel 98 as well. He also asked if the $2 fee would be sufficient to pay for an animal control officer to check dog licenses, and said the license fees should be earmarked to go into the county’s animal control fund.
The court also voted to approve the second reading of an ordinance that allows it to enter into a restructuring of the loan for the Letcher County Recreation Center, that finances the loan at a lower interest rate and will save the county at least $688,000 over the life of the loan.
Kelly Mittler, Finance Officer with the Kentucky Association of Counties, which holds the loan, and R.J. Palmer II of Civic Financial Advisors approached the court at the May meeting and suggested that it restructure the loan. Palmer told the court that by refi- nancing at a lower interest rate, made possible by the improved economy since the last loan was obtained, it can save about $28,500 a year, or $688,000 over the entire term.
The court conducted the first reading at last month’s meeting, but the second reading was passed in a split vote with District Two Magistrate Terry Adams voting no. Adams questioned a clause to the effect that if the court is unable to service the debt, the county will have initiate a special tax to address it. The same clause is in the original loan agreement, and as Judge Ward explained, it is in every loan agreement the county has for infrastructure, because infrastructure can’t really be repossessed, and it guarantees the debt will be paid. Magistrate Fleming said he had voted against the original agreement due to the tax clause, but he supports the restructured agreement because it will lower the rate and the clause is already in the agreement. Ward also told Adams the clause was already present in the loan agreement, and that the restructuring would remove $688,000 of the amount that would have to be repaid. However, Adams was adamant and the vote was five to one with Adams casting the lone no vote.
The court also voted to add Noah Drive to the county road inventory. Ward explained that the road had always been a county road, but was dropped by mistake in 2011 due to a mix-up when it was thought to be a private drive. Fleming also pointed to Booker Road, a road near the Pike County line, which is partly in Letcher County and partly in Pike County. Judge Pro-Tem Eddie Meade told Fleming he has spoken to the Pike County Judge’s Office about it and they had no interest paving their portion of the road or in working with Letcher County on the matter. Fleming suggested Letcher County go ahead and pave its portion and Meade said that since Pike County has a new Judge, he will speak to them again.
Marty Hayes of the Scuttle Hole Gap neighborhood approached the court to ask if any progress has been made in efforts to extend water lines to Scuttle Hole Gap. Judge Ward told him that for complete information he should go to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District’s Board of Directors meeting in the District Courtroom on Thursday, July 21. At the May meeting of the LCWSD, Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering told the board that Abandoned Mine Lands has ruled that the Scuttle Hole Gap community is not eligible for AML funding because, while the water there is bad, it was not caused by mining, but because of the local geology. However, Bell Engineering is in the process of finalizing a design to connect Scuttle Hole Gap with county water lines and will submit it to the Kentucky Department of Water in the event that funding becomes available.
The court also voted to dedicate Watts Drive in memory of Specialist 5 Don Bolling, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army. Bolling’s name will be added to an existing sign with Arnold Bolling. Court members also voted to dedicate Main Street in Blackey to honor PFC Arnold Wilson,
U.S. Army, World War II, who was awarded five Bronze Service Stars signifying his participation in five battles. Judge Ward said that the Blackey road is a state road and that it may be better to make a sign off state right of way dedicating the road and adding other names in order to escape the red tape that accompanies working wth the Deaprtment of Highways in naming roads.
In other court business:
• The court voted to adopt the five-year Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. This makes the county eligible for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to mitigate damage from disasters that occur in the county. It also adopts the FEMA Plan as the county’s plan.
• The court voted to adopt and approve the execution of the Rural and Secondary Roads Agreement, which will allow it to use rural and secondary road funds made available by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to resurface and patch county roads.
•The court voted unanimously to approve the 2015/2016 Annual Treasurer’s Settlement, which is a detailed account of county spending and income for the previous fiscal year.
• The court approved the final account of the 2015/2016 Jail Commissary Year Ending Financial Statement.
Bank balances for county agencies as of July 13:
• General Fund $371,085.92
• Road and Bridge Fund $310,581.07
• Jail Fund $147,725.50
• LGEA Fund $191,928.25
• Senior Citizens Fund $116,044.85
•Forestry Fund $16,507.66
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account $180,600.22
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service $64,085.38