Whitesburg KY
Mostly clear
Mostly clear

Court OK’s extension of haul road agreement

The Letcher Fiscal Court voted 5- 1 this week to extend an agreement that would allow a Letcher County coal company to use Carbon Glow Road as a coal-haul road.

Enterprise Mining representatives Paul Mullins and Richard Hall asked the court during its February meeting this week to extend a road use permit in Carbon Glow for one more year even though the company has not used the road so far. Current plans call for the coal to be hauled through Knott County, but Mullins said the company wants to keep its options open.

Mullins and Hall also asked the court to change a separate agreement giving Enterprise permission to deep mine approximately two acres of county-owned coal so that the company can strip mine the coal instead. The land, located in western Letcher County, has been stripped before, but an estimated 8,000 tons of coal remains in Hazard No. 4 seam. The county owns the mineral rights to the property, and has already been paid $26,000 by Enterprise as pre-payment for royalties on the coal. The money was placed in the county’s Parks and Recreation Fund.

District Four Magistrate Keith Adams complained to Mullins that a contractor mining for Enterprise was creating a dust problem on Tolson Road and asked if the company would sweeten the deal by paving the road. Mullins said the portion of Tolson road in question is about a mile long and would cost the company about $100,000 to pave. Mullins told the court he could not commit Enterprise to spending that much money, but said he would work with Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward to try to find a solution to the dust problem.

Hall, who also holds an elective office as county surveyor, said the current mining job at Tolson will expire around the end of February, but that another contractor will start using the road later.

Mullins also told the court the company would add two percent to the royalty fee, going from six percent to eight percent for the strip mining, which he said is Enterprise’s standard fee. Mullins said he needed the court’s decision at Monday’s meeting so Enterprise could include the property in a permit application the company is ready to submit to state regulatory agencies. Otherwise the property would be left unmined, Mullins said.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming told Mullins he thought Enterprise should be willing to blacktop the road in return for the county’s participation, but Mullins again said he could not commit Enterprise to do the work. Fleming asked if Enterprise would be willing to write a check for the county’s royalties immediately, but Mullins also denied that request.

“I won’t make you a promise I can’t keep,” said Mullins.

Fleming suggested the county could lower the royalty payment to five percent if Enterprise would pave the road, but the court finally agreed to approve both requests by Enterprise, which is a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources. The court voted unanimously to allow for the road use extension and five to one for the mining permit change with Fleming casting the lone no vote.

Monday night’s meeting also featured a report on a “haunted school” that is attracting interest from people living outside Letcher County.

Jim Polly, representing the Old Jenkins High School Committee, said the committee has been hearing from “paranormal investigators” who have responded to rumors that the building in downtown Jenkins is haunted. Polly said several groups who investigate paranormal phenomena have placed the old school on their web sites, and that some have even visited the school looking for ghosts and poltergeists.

District Two Magistrate Archie Banks, who has led an effort to try to remove the old school from the county ownership, told Polly he believes the school committee may have found its “niche.”

Another magistrate was not so pleased with the haunted school aspect of county property.

“This junk is just crazy,” said District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson.

Polly also told the court that while funding for an ongoing project to renovate the old school is very tight at present, he is hopeful that some of President Obama’s stimulus package, recently passed by Congress and signed into law yesterday, will make its way to Jenkins. Polly referred to the president’s desire to fund “shovel ready” projects and said the committee has everything in order to begin immediately if funding is made available.

The court also heard about controversy among members of the Letcher County Tourism Commission.

Jeremiah resident Ray Adams, who was talking to the court about roadside trash, complained that his wife Doris, who is a member of the tourism committee, had been insulted at the last meeting and that one person was making all the decisions for the entire tourism commission. Adams also cautioned that tourism efforts will fail in Letcher County unless an effort is made to clean up roadside trash.

Tourism Committee Chairman David Narramore then addressed the court and denied that any one person is making the decisions for the commission. Narramore said meetings are run by quorum and majority vote, and said that progress has been made in the area of developing new brochures. Narramore also presented the court with a list of recent tourism activities and related plans for coming months.

Narramore said Lee Michael Caudill, a member of the tourism commission, had designed folders to address four areas: arts, crafts, and cuisine; scenic tourism; historical tourism; and adventure tourism. He said the commission has also met with members of the Cumberland Tourism Commission to hear a request by that group to participate in developing an ATV trailhead between Letcher and Harlan counties.

Narramore said the commission has developed a master plan for the year and that all four cities in Letcher County have been contacted to allow them to respond or add events to brochure before its final printing.

An event named “Red Bud Weekend” will kick off the summer’s activities on May 7- 10. Several events are scheduled in Whitesburg and around the county, including hikes in scenic areas.

Doris Adams told court members that an exhibit featuring 50 quilts made by Letcher County quilters is still on display at the Harry M. Caudill Library in Whitesburg, and that visitors from Georgia and Tennessee have viewed the quilts. She said the exhibit has been featured on local television and about 200 people have signed the guest book.

In a related matter, Cumberland Mountain Arts and Crafts Vice President Ernestine Flint said the outdoor drama “Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” the signature event for the new Little Shepherd Amphitheater at Jenkins, will be presented this summer beginning June 18 and running through Labor Day weekend. Flint said “Thunder on the Mountain,” a Civil War re-enactment, will be presented at the amphitheater August 7- 9, and the Indian Summer Music and Drama Festival will take place October 16- 17, and on October 23-24. Flint said the Cumberland Mountain group wants to make certain that all dates of tourism related events are known so there will be no conflicts in presentation.

In other business:

• The court voted unanimously to restore Economic Development Director Joe DePriest to full-time employee status. The move came at the request of the four-county Appalachian Industrial Authority Board, which has asked for an inter local agreement to allow it to pick up the remainder of DePriest’s salary in order to allow him to devote his full attention to industrial recruitment in Letcher, Knott, Pike, and Floyd counties.

• The court voted unanimously to award a $300 per year contract to DC Elevator Company for maintenance of the elevator in the Letcher County Courthouse.

• The court voted unanimously to participate in a grant with the Land and Water Conservation Fund to complete the installation of lights at the Whitesburg Little League Park. Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto read the resolution calling for participation.

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