The Letcher County Conservation District quietly moved into its new location last week near the sewer plant in West Whitesburg.
Six years ago the district purchased the old KYVA Motor Company building in downtown Whitesburg for $85,000. Ron Brunty, chairman of the conservation district, said it would cost much more to repair the building than it would to knock it down and build a new structure. Brunty said it would cost $400,000 to renovate the building.
Whitesburg Mayor James W. Craft declared a moratorium on the demolition in May 2007, citing the building’s listing on the national register as part of the Whitesburg Historic District Listing.
According to the National Register of Historic Places, the KYVA building was constructed in 1925 and “was the local Oakland, Willis and Pontiac auto dealer and also sold International trucks.”
About a year ago, the City of Whitesburg traded the conservation district about a quarter of an acre of land located on Industrial Park Road for the KYVA building.
“I thought it was a win/win,” said Brunty. “The city gets a storage facility.”
Construction began in late September on the new brick building and was completed by Dec. 21. The first day of business in the new place was Jan. 7.
“We wanted something that would last a long time,” said Brunty.
The old offices were located at 30b Childers Road beside a laundromat. The space was about 775 square feet.
“It was so tiny up there,” said Brenda Joseph, administrative assistant for the conservation district.
The new building, which cost about $260,000, offers about 1,800 square feet of space. The building was designed by Kenar Architectural Inc. of Frankfort.
“It’s very simple,” said Brunty. “That’s all we ever asked for in the beginning.”
Brunty said the goal has been to reach self-sufficiency. He said state allotments have been less each year and he knew there would come a time when funds would no longer be allocated from the state for rent.
Brunty said the conservation district operates on the millage tax and was able to use saved up funds to finance the construction project.
“It’s done,” said Brunty. “No liens. No notes. No nothing. It provides us an opportunity to be self sufficient.”
The new building has more storage space and a garage in which the federal vehicle can be locked up at night.
Connie Sturgill, who works with the National Resource Conservation Service, has an office at the new building.
Brunty said the conservation district would like to build a greenhouse or a hoop building on the property for educational purposes and partner with the Letcher County 4H Program on some projects.
The conservation district serves the citizens of Letcher County on the use of private property for residential, agricultural and recreational uses pertaining to soil, air and water quality, said Brunty.
“We are here to help the people of Letcher County,” said Brunty. “In the past, we have dealt with landowners who wanted to do something on their property. If we don’t have the answer or resources we can point them in the right direction.”
Brunty said timber quality improvement, soil erosion, abandoned mine land reclamation for economic development and education are a few issues the conservation district will be dealing with in the future.
Members of the conservation district board are Brunty, Billy K. Banks, Tex Isaac, Kevin Breeding, Jim McAuley, Randy Bailey and Tom Dollarhide.
A grand opening of the new conservation district building will be held in the spring.