Whitesburg KY

Court set salaries, hires officers for police force

The Letcher Fiscal Court is a step closer to establishing a county police force to protect people and property at Fishpond Lake and other parks and trails in the county.

At a special meeting held August 6, the court voted to officially establish the Letcher County Police Park Unit and set pay rates and other guidelines for officers. Letcher County Disaster Coordinator Paul Miles will head the unit, which will be known informally as the Letcher County Rangers. Miles has also served as an investigator with UNITE and as police chief in Whitesburg.

The court set salaries for new officers at $11.00 per hour upon hiring with a possible raise to $12.00 after a six month probationary period, which follows current county personnel policies. County Attorney Harold Bolling told the court it will need to make a couple of changes in personnel policy specifically for the county police force and said it would be better to establish a third category of employees classified specifically as law enforcement. He said the third category will account for special requirements such as training and pay rates reflecting the greater demands placed on entry level employees. The county police force will be paid out of Local Government Economic Assistance funds.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he wanted to be certain the officers receive full county benefits from the date they are hired and Judge/Executive Jim Ward said that all employees will receive full benefits during their probationary period. Fleming added that citizens of Letcher County will expect to see results within a reasonable period of time, given their interest in the force being created.

Phil Slone, the current police chief in Whitesburg, and Sean Blair will be the first two officers hired into the Letcher County Rangers. Ward said both men are well qualified and have completed state law enforcement training. Miles has outlined an intensive training program for officers including map and GPS training, mountaineering, and other rescue and trail techniques. The force will have distinctive uniforms, badges, and vehicles.

Ward said it is important to get guidelines in place because once the county force is officially established members will be able to participate in Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice programs which will also provide funds for trained officers. Bolling said the force could be established by executive order but added that it would be better to have the fiscal court’s approval as well. The court voted five to one to establish the force under the proposed guidelines with District Four Magistrate Keith Adams casting the lone no vote.

In other business, the court voted to reschedule the August meeting to August 24 because of a Local Governmental Issues training session Ward and the magistrates will attend. The court also voted to allow Ward to sign all contracts for county fire departments and ambulance services and to distribute coal severance tax funds to the departments.

The court also discussed dredging streams and creeks around the county in an effort to prevent further flooding. Magistrate Fleming said the court will have to make certain state and federal environmental guidelines are followed and suggested the county work closely with agencies at both levels. Ward said that most of the streams involved will fall under state guidelines but that it is important to take action as soon as possible, given the severe flooding parts of the county recently faced.

District Three Magistrate Archie Banks said the streams were last dredged over 20 years ago and it had kept flooding to a minimum, but it would be necessary to dredge them again.

Ward asked the court to approve a resolution allowing him to negotiate with the various agencies involved to request dredging. Banks asked that the resolution include Letcher County’s unique status as headwaters for three of the major rivers in the state, the Kentucky River, the Cumberland River, and the Big Sandy River.

The court voted unanimously to give Ward permission to negotiate.

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