In a split vote, the Letcher County Fiscal Court passed the second reading of a resolution which approves a lease financing the county’s new recreation center, which is currently under construction in Whitesburg. The vote came during a special called meeting held January 21, with Judge/Executive Jim Ward, Third District Magistrate Codell Gibson, and First District Magistrate Bobby Howard voting in favor of the resolution and Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming and Second District Magistrate Terry Adams voting no. Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams did not attend the meeting.
Both Fleming and Adams said they based their vote on a provision in the lease agreement which could raise taxes on Letcher County residents if coal severance tax receipts were to drop to the point they will no longer take care of the payments. Judge Ward said this is unlikely and Finance Officer Doris Jean ‘D.J.’ Frazier added that as long as the court puts payments on the center at the top of the annual priority list they submit to the state legislature, it is very unlikely the center will fall into default.
After County Attorney Jamie Hatton read the resolution, Fleming asked about a clause in the agreement that says the payments on the center will take priority over other monies allocated by the court. Fleming said other county projects will only get their funds if there is money enough to make the payment on the center.
“This puts a lot of things at risk,” said Fleming. “It probably won’t come to that, but I’ve never been for it. Things could get bad. It’s good right now, but in four or five years? It seems like all our stuff (incoming funding) is dropping.”
Adams then asked for clarifica- tion about Section II, which says that during the period of the loan agreement, a tax shall be computed to provide for the payment of the loan but so long as the county can make the payment, it doesn’t need to actually be levied. The lease agreement states that at this time the county has sufficient revenue to service the debt, but in the event that is no longer possible, the tax shall be put into effect. Ward and Frazier both said this is not likely to happen but Adams said if it did, it could create a substantial tax burden for the people.
Judge Ward asked County Attorney Hatton if he thought they should do something to clarify the language in the lease, but Hatton replied that he felt the language was already clear.
“It’s pretty clear,” said Hatton. “We can live with it, or not. But it’s plenty clear.”
Codell Gibson added that while he does not want to do anything to cause taxes to be raised, he is for going ahead with the center. Gibson said the location is good, it will be good for the youth of the county, and there is adequate police protection in Whitesburg to make it a safe place.
“It’s one of the best things we’ve done for the people,” said Gibson.
Ward said the lease agreement is very similar to a mortgage to buy a house and Gibson added, “We can’t live in a ‘what if’ world.” Frazier told the court members to be certain they always put the request for funding the center as the top priority in their request to the state.
“If the fiscal court makes sure they always put the payment in as a priority and a line item, it will be OK,” said Frazier.
The court also set committee appointments for magistrates and some staff members for the duration of the magistrates’ terms, setting appointments for 2011–2014. The assignments are:
• Community Centers and Senior Citizens (Community Support) — Magistrates Terry Adams and Bobby Howard, Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto, and Senior Citizens Director Trenda Kincer.
• Buildings and Grounds (courthouse, jail, construction, maintenance, repair, and custodial) — Magistrates Codell Gibson and Keith Adams, and Executive Secretary Hettie Adams.
• Sanitation and Recycling (garbage collection, solid waste plan, and Water District operations) – Magistrates Codell Gibson and Keith Adams, Sanitation Coordinator Gary Cornett, and Recycling Coordinator Johnny Ray Williams.
• Budget Audits, and Personnel ( budget, records, audits, purchasing, insurance, personnel: hiring and discipline) – Magistrates Codell Gibson and Bobby Howard, County Treasurer Phillip Hampton, and Finance Officer D.J. Frazier.
• Law Enforcement and Jail (sheriff ’s department, constables, jail operations, and Rangers) – Magistrates Wayne Fleming and Bobby Howard, Sheriff Danny Webb, and Jailer Don Mc- Call.
• Fire Protection and Emergency Services (fire department s, rescue squads, and ambulance service) Magistrates Wayne Fleming and Codell Gibson, Emergency Management Director Paul Miles, and Judge Pro Tem Eddie Meade.
• Planning, Parks, and Recreation ( planning parks and recreation) Magistrates Wayne Fleming, Terry Adams, and Codell Gibson, and Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto.
• Economic Development (create infrastructure and jobs) Magistrates Keith Adams, Terry Adams, and Bobby Howard, and Economic Development Director Joe DePriest
The court also voted to name the following bridges in honor of Letcher County veterans:
• Road at Junction of 119 and 932 Eolia up to the ¾ mile marker (MM) on 932 for PFC Roy Baker, U.S. Army Memorial Road.
• Road on Hwy 119 MM 25 to MM 26 at Payne Gap for HMC (Chief Hospital Corpsman) Allison Jones Levy.
• Copperhead Road in Craft’s Colly for Seaman Second Class James David Barnett Sr.. U.S. Navy, World War II.
• Bridge at Cornfield Drive, Whitaker for SFC Tommy N. Phillips, retired Vietnam veteran, honored for service.
• Bridge at Kingscreek before Kingscreek Park for Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Boggs, U.S. Army, World War II, Korea and Vietnam Memorial Bridge.
• New bridge across North Fork of Kentucky River below Blackey, Old Dixon Road, Cpl. Wade Whitehead, U. S. Army World War II Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge at the mouth of Copperhead Branch Road on Craft’s Colly for Private Linville M. Stallard, U.S. Army Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge at the mouth of Coon Hollow in Deane for Private Thomas J. ‘Red’ Helton Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge at the mouth of Big Branch on Linefork for Cpl. Less Combs, Private Lyttle Combs, U.S. Army Memorial Bridge
• Bridge just past Seals Avenue in Fleming for SFC James R. Hawley Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge going to Lark Lane on Pert Creek for Sgt. Claude Adams World War II France Memorial Bridge
• Bridge five miles up Hwy 510 at Gilly Bridge before Laurel Lane and Bear Branch at mile point 2.653 for PFC Harold F. Cornett Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge at 3404 on Hwy 119 at Partridge for SN E3 Lonnie Buchanan Memorial Bridge.
• Bridge on Hwy 7 North at Mouth of Beaver Dam for First Lt. Aaron Rice Bentley Memorial Bridge.
• Only bridge at Holbrook Town in Mayking for Sgt. Eddie Holbrook, LTC David Holbrook, LTC Stacy Holbrook, and Captain Matthew Holbrook Bridge.
• First bridge on left on Thornton going to Chip Drive for Sgt. James Edward ‘Ed’ Nickels, SP4 Phillip Nickels Memorial Bridge.
• Road on old Highway 15 going to John B. Adams Store for PFC Fred Banks, World War I.