Whitesburg KY

Court votes to apply for $5 million loan for recreation center

Letcher Fiscal Court is moving forward with plans to build a county recreation center in downtown Whitesburg.

The court met in a special session last week to approve the application for a $5 million loan through the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) to fund the project planned for the old A&P grocery building next to Dairy Queen. If awarded, the grant would have a cap of $7 million.

Jack Waddles, an architect with Summit Engineering of Pikeville, presented the court with possible ideas of what might be included in a 40,000-square-foot center.

“Everything we have put in there is negotiable,” said Waddles. “We have a wish list we are working on. There are a lot of things to still be decided.”

The proposed design will have a tall climbing wall enclosed in glass which will light up at night. A bowling alley, driving range, fitness center and arcade are also part of the design.

Asked by District Four Magistrate Keith Adams how many bowling lanes would be included, Waddles answered, “I was thinking eight. That seemed like a good number. If you get less than that it gets too crowded. More than that it would be too much maintenance.”

Also included in the early plan is a gymnasium with a full-size basketball court and retractable bleachers that can also be used as an auditorium with a stage.

“It creates a little bit of a multipurpose room so you use that room over and over again,” said Waddles.

Three rooms, designated for parties, would be built with an outside access door near Dairy Queen. Offices, multipurpose rooms and a conference room were also mentioned.

Waddles said if the court wanted to offer laser tag it shouldn’t build a permanent room just for that attraction, but rather buy portable equipment and hold the event it in one of the multipurpose rooms maybe twice a month.

A walking track would wrap around the second floor of the building. Waddles said there is also a proposal to use space on the roof for miniature golf and batting cages. Waddles said he has a problem with playing putt-putt golf on the roof.

“If I put golf balls up on the roof and there is a parking lot out there, do the golf balls fly off the roof onto the parking lot,” Waddles asked the court?

“In miniature golf they shouldn’t be hitting the balls that hard anyway,” said District 2 Magistrate Archie Banks. Waddles said he is also worried about golf balls being thrown off of the roof and onto vehicles. Banks, who likes the idea of using the roof, said something could be built to keep golf balls from leaving the area.

Waddles said space for a daycare or twohour baby-sitting service is also included in the design. If the space allotted is used for daycare, Waddles said there are more regulations and guidelines that must be followed such as staffing requirements and square footage. He said the space could be leased as a daycare center.

Waddles said recycled rubber material will be used in the flooring of the walking track and exercise room and in the climbing wall mats. He said that heating the building with geothermal power means there is a possibility of using stimulus money on the project. Waddles said the initial costs of such a system are more but the county would save more money in the end.

The court also voted at the meeting to advertise for bids to tear down the old A&P building.

In a related matter, the court appointed 13 people to a recreation center advisory council. Those named are Brandon Baker, Lois Baker, Robbie Baker, Freddie Johnson, Willa Johnson, Claude Little, Carol Ann Litts, Howie Mason, Berma Matthews, Kyle Smith, Joan Ward, Nick Whitaker and Doris Williams.

District One Magistrate Bob Lewis asked about the exclusion of anyone from the Cumberland River side of Pine Mountain on the advisory council. Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward told Lewis a spot would be left open on the council for a member Lewis recommends.

In other business, the court approved the purchase of county health insurance with Anthem through KACo.

Ward said the health savings account will cost the county more money up front, but should eventually bring savings.

“It will really be a savings to the county with a better policy to employees,” said Ward.

Ward said that under the old policy some employees had to pay $4,000 out of pocket. He said that under the new policy, $1,500 is the most an employee would have to pay out of pocket for a single policy.

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