Whitesburg KY

Court will meet in special session to set tax rates

The Letcher County Fiscal Court is being forced to call a special meeting this week because neither of the two school districts in the county submitted its tax rates to the court in time for the regular August meeting, Judge/Executive Jim Ward said.

Ward told the court at its August meeting last week that he would call the special meeting on August 30 to set final tax rates providing neither Letcher County Schools nor the Jenkins Independent School District raised rates past the approved compensatory rate of four percent. The Letcher County Library District submitted tax rates which Ward said were incorrect and had to be sent back for reevaluation.

The court voted to go ahead and set rates which were correctly submitted and set the county tax rate at 12.1 cents per $100 for real and personal property, and 13.7 cents per $100 on motor vehicles and water craft. Ward said tax rates were down slightly because of an increase in revenue. Tax rates for the Letcher County Health Department were set at 5.5 cents per $100 for motor vehicles, personal property and real property and at 1.1 cents per $100 on real property for the Soil Conservation District.

Ward said if Letcher County Schools raised its rates higher than the compensatory rate, it would require special hearings which could set the county back more than a month in sending out tax bills.

“That killed us last year,” said Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming.

In other business, the court took no formal action on a request to change insurance agents.

Judy Brooks, a South Williamson insurance agent who attended the meeting as a representative of the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO), told the court she could save it money and provide better service if it would send a letter authorizing Anthem Insurance to provide her with access to the county’s claim records.

Brooks said in order to access the records, she would have to be listed as insurance agent of record for the county and the study would be done at no charge to the county.

Thomas Grayson of Monumental Life Insurance was awarded the bid for the second year at in a row at the February 2007 meeting of the fiscal court. Judge Ward told the court that while Grayson still represents Monumental, he has moved to Georgia and is sometimes difficult to reach if questions arise. Ward said if the court simply changes agents, the policy and provider for county employees would remain the same. However, County Attorney Harold Bolling said the proposed arrangement made no sense to him and warned the court to let him look over the contract carefully before making any moves to change agents. Bolling also questioned the tactics being used by Brooks.

“I’m not prepared to make a recommendation,” said Bolling. “What you want to do is to replace somebody without fair representation. We have a system in place and you want to come along and look at their information. The county made an agreement with this agent and you want to look at their information and make a proposal. If we have the same carrier, it will cost the same.”

County Treasurer Phillip Hampton weighed in on the issue, too. Hampton said Anthem has to release information on county workers’ claims to the court if it requested it and the information is furnished fairly to each company which places bids on an annual basis.

“We do this every year,” said Hampton. “We supply the names, ages, Social Security numbers, birthdays, claim reports, and their claims. We can get the claims. It’s our information. They can’t deny it.”

The court also:

. Voted conditionally to purchase new tax accounting software for the sheriff’s office to replace a program which Deputy Lashawna Frazier said had numerous problems and had cost the department several thousand dollars because of errors. Judge Ward suggested the court vote to purchase the software contingent on discussions with Property Valuation Administrator Randy Hall and County Court Clerk Winston Meade. The initial cost for the new program from Data Design Inc. of Richmond is $6,395, including training and support. Annual updates and retraining will cost $2,100 per year, including support.

. Voted unanimously to adopt Covenant Road and Perkins Branch into the county road plan.

. Accepted the annual financial statement for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007 from County Treasurer Phillip Hampton.

. Approved a change order on work being done in the Old Jenkins High School for $3,800 on the elevator. Judge Ward said the bid on the elevator had expired and the cost of material had gone up. Jim Polly of the Old High School Committee told the court a prime rib dinner/fundraiser will be held October 12 at the Jenkins Masonic Hall, along with a silent auction. The cost will be $15 per plate.

. Took no action on a Department of Homeland Security offer to consolidate the Letcher County 911 Office with those in surrounding counties. Ward said he has studied the plan and sees no advantages for the county and a number of drawbacks including the withdrawal of funding after the first year. Former Magistrate Randall Caudill was enthusiastic about adopting the plan, but Ward and Sheriff Danny Webb both recommended they stick with the current system.

. Accepted a data map of the proposed Pioneer Horse Trail from County Surveyor Richard Hall. Ward told the court he had sent a CD of the map in data form to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ward said he hopes to hear from the department soon.

. Voted unanimously to have Racetrack Hollow and Goose Creek Road surveyed for the purpose of setting speed limits on each.

. Heard a proposal for developing all-terrain vehicle trails in Letcher County. Ward said the county is looking for opportunities to develop trails and said a new law from the recent legislative session will make it possible for private landowners to donate the use of their property for recreation without being liable in case of injury by riders.

. Heard a request for funding from Beth Bolling, director of the women’s shelter in Whitesburg. Ward said the funding for the center which was originally vetoed by Governor Ernie Fletcher was restored in the recent session and he had sent in a memorandum of agreement for the funds.

. Received thanks from District Three Constable Roland Craft for increasing the expense account for constables. Craft said he spoke for all five constables in Letcher County. The court voted unanimously to provide handheld radios to those constables who are filing expense reports on vehicles.

In reports from county departments:

. County Road Foreman John Adams reported that county road workers have paved roads in Yonts Fork, Ore Drive, Roseboom, Goose Creek, Stevens Fork, McRoberts Community Center, Wintergreen Drive, Bandmill Bottom, Boone Fork Senior Citizens Center, Lance Drive, Lilac Drive, Number One Bottom, Dairy Hollow, Crosby Road, Bentley Branch, and Piney Flats. They hauled the county’s recycling to Lexington and disposed of used tires in Somerset. County workers also installed culverts, cleaned ditches, cut grass, and graded and graveled roads throughout the county.

. Senior Citizens Director Trenda Kincer reported that seniors visited the Veterans Center at Hazard and attended a class on natural disasters at the Hal Rogers Forum in Hazard. Each attendee received an emergency kit with weather radios, flashlights, and other valuable tools for use in disasters. Kincer also wrote that her next goal is to get a center open in Colson for 60 plus seniors there. The center with the highest number of units (activities and services for seniors) was Boonefork in Fleming and the lowest was Jenkins. Jenkins also had the lowest number of home-delivered meals. Boonefork served 1,300 meals and Ermine served 1,100. Letcher Senior Citizens obtained 13,000 units for July. Units served determines how funds are allocated for county senior citizens programs.

. Letcher County Litter Warden Darrell Banks reported checking 14 dumps and finding nine names in the dumps. Banks also attended court for a day and answered 14 complaints, had three dumps and eight homes cleaned, and had issued two summonses for littering.

. Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest reported attending meetings with the Letcher County Prison Project Committee, LLC Drillers, Kristina Anderson of the Education Cabinet, the Letcher County Airport Board (DePriest is chairman), Equitable Gas, Bureau of Prisons Consultant Jim Jones, Drill Steel Services, Dinah Hall, AIA Attorney, the Kentucky Department of Aviation, and the Appalachian Industrial Authority (AIA).

. Letcher County 911 Director Brandon Conley reported attending a gas pipeline protection seminar at Hazard Community College and a Kentucky River Area Development District meeting for a Homeland Security grant. Conley repaired and replaced 911 signs throughout the county. He also helped the Whitesburg Fire Department with National Incident Management Systems Testing to keep it in compliance with Homeland Security. Conley also discussed obtaining radios for Sandlick Fire Department with Judge Ward.

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