Whitesburg KY

Court voids dog fee

The Letcher County Fiscal Court voted to rescind a mandatory dog license for county residents at its August meeting.

The license, which was voted on at last month’s meeting, would have cost $2 and was intended to raise funds to help feed and control stray dogs and cats. But after hearing from Kim Stewart, who supervises the county’s animal control efforts, the court members voted unanimously to rescind the vote to adopt a licensing fee.

Stewart told the court that a similar effort had failed during the previous administration and she saw no reason it would succeed now. She said the only people who would buy the licenses were probably older people and that enforcement would be practically impossible. She said the county’s animal control efforts are already swamped, and that the license idea was impractical. Stewart also said that there are a lot of other programs that are available to Letcher County residents, but most people don’t know about them.

Judge/Executive Jim Ward, who had asked if the $2 fee was sufficient at last month’s meeting, said he would make information on the programs available to the public and put them on a scrolling screen on Channel 98.

Stewart said there are dedicated animal lovers who will do everything they can to keep animals from being abandoned, and if a person with a litter of pups will call her office at the county garage, she will arrange for animal rescuers to come out and administer shots to the puppies, and arrange for the mother to be picked up and spayed. Stewart said that spaying and neutering is at the center of the county’s efforts and animal control works closely with animal rescuers, the Regional Animal Shelter at Hazard, and local groups to arrange for spay and neuter clinics on a regular basis.

Stewart said that in 2015, county groups took 1,288 dogs to the shelter, and only 128 were euthanized. She added that in 2016, Letcher County groups have spayed 127 dogs and 149 cats. Stewart said that in addition to the regional animal shelter, another group, Almost Home, works with the county and tries to give every animal a chance to live a decent life. Court statistics showed that of the 4,190 animals that were rescued in Letcher County, 294 were adopted.

“A lot of people want to help animals,” said Stewart. She added that there are also income guidelines and that people who have a household income of under $55,000 per annum get a discounted rate on spaying of $65 for dogs and $45 for cats. Judge Ward said a lot of people in the county already call the county garage for Mrs. Stewart, and Stewart said if anyone has animals that are in jeopardy or that need to be spayed, they should contact her at the Letcher County Highway Garage, 633-7583.

Stewart added that the regional shelter and Almost Home are mostly funded by donations, and that any amount is welcome. She said that every animal that goes through either program is spayed or neutered before it is adopted. For information on how to make a donation to the regional shelter or Almost Home, contact Kim Stewart at the Letcher County Highway Garage.

In other business, Second District Magistrate Terry Adams asked if any progress has been made on getting cooperation from the special taxing districts in the county. Special taxing districts, like the Letcher County Library Board, Board of Directors of the Letcher County Health Department and others set their own tax rates under state law. Adams said he believes they should be answerable to the fiscal court. He added that he does not believe they should be allowed to set high tax rates if they don’t have a visible need for the funds.

County Attorney Jamie Hatton told Adams that the districts can raise rates to the level of the statemandated compensating rate — the level that will guarantee them the same level of tax income as in the previous year — but if a district exceeds a four percent increase past the compensating rate, it has to hold a public hearing to explain the reasoning. Hatton said he would request that the districts send a representative to a court meeting to explain their tax rates, but Ward said he is not certain the court can compel them to do so.

The issue of special taxing districts was on the Kentucky legislative agenda in 2012 and 2013, and in January of 2013, then-State Auditor Adam Edelen referred to the taxing districts as “ghost governments.” In the 2013 General Assembly session, the House and Senate passed legislation designed to make the process of tax rates for special districts more transparent. According to an article in the March 12, 2013 edition of The Lexington Herald-Leader, House Bill 1, which was sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, required special purpose government agencies, which includes libraries, fire departments, sewer districts, and others, to submit their budgets to a “publicly accessible online agency.”

The purpose of the legislation was to clarify audit standards and to “give teeth” to existing laws that compel compliance for reporting and auditing standards for the districts. The bill was also designed to establish educational standards for board members and staff and to require them to adopt ethics codes. The Kentucky Senate added a requirement that gave fiscal courts and city councils veto power over tax increases by the districts, but the House removed the requirement before it was passed. The Herald Leader’s report states emphatically, “The final bill does not give fiscal courts the ability to veto the entities’ tax or fee increases.”

The Kentucky Department of Local Government carries information on taxing districts on its website, including a set of tax calculation rate guidelines. To see DLG’s information, go to kydlgweb. ky.gov/Entities/SpecDistHome. cfm.

The court voted unanimously to renew the program of leasing heavy trucks, and to lease two 2017 Mack trucks. Judge Ward said this is one of the best programs the court has participated in, since by entering into the lease at state contract prices, which are a good deal lower than the prices at a commercial agency, the fiscal court always makes between $5,000 and $20,000 when the trucks are sold from the lease arrangement. He added that the county keeps the trucks long enough to get its use out of them, but not so long that the warranties expire so the trucks cost very little to operate.

The court also voted to adopt Noah’s Drive into the County Road Inventory. Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams asked Judge Ward to look into a silt pond on Montgomery Creek Road that spills over and has washed part of the road away as well as exposing water lines. Adams said the signs around the pond say it is part of an operation belonging to Cheyenne Coal, but on the other side of the road is a sign that reads Blue Diamond. However, Adams said that regardless of who the owner of the property is, it is a hazard to the community and will continue to damage the road.

David Narramore of the Letcher County Tourism Commission told the court that the Heritage 2K Truck Show for 2016 has been cancelled due to construction in the parking lot shared by MCHC and Food City. He added that thanks to funding from the court, the commission has been able to advertise Letcher County tourist attractions in the Kentucky Travel Guide. He said the half-page ad will list attractions in the county and is distributed nationally and internationally, with 400,000 copies.

Bank balances for county agencies as of August 9:

• General Fund $113,450.48

• Road and Bridge Fund $539.100.62

• Jail Fund $74,087.62

• LGEA Fund $300,878.12

• Senior Citizens Fund $126,358.74

• Forestry Fund $16,507.66

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account $183,198.56

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service $87,909.53

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