Almost 40 small businesses in Letcher County will be getting some form of economic aid for COVID-19 related losses as a result of applying to the county under the federal CARES Act.
CARES was passed in March 2020 as an economic stimulus act and partly to relieve unemployment and losses to small businesses. At the March meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court on Monday evening, Letcher County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier told the court there are 37 checks in Judge/Executive Terry Adams’s office to be distributed to small business that successfully applied for relief. The checks range in value from $1,000 to $5,000 and were available to be picked up as of Tuesday, March 16.
The court also discussed the possibility of hiring an economic development employee to work on attracting business to the county. However, Adams said he doesn’t believe the amount the court could afford to pay in salary at the present time is sufficient to attract the kind of person for which the court members are looking.
Judge Adams also announced that the annual Spring Clean-up will begin on April 5 and run through April 30. There will be no transfer fees for county residents at the transfer station, which will be open in regular business hours and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will also be a special rate of $30 to fill an empty county truck with household garbage and dump it at the station.
In other business, the court learned that the Letcher County Jail is at least $5,000 over budget. Members of the jail committee said the budget deficit is mostly the result of personnel and insurance costs. Judge Adams said the county will have to continue taking care of deficits in the jail budget as long as it can because of the necessity of having a jail. Sheriff Mickey Stines agreed, saying that a jail is a burden the county has to pay for, and keeping possibly violent criminals off the street is more important than a slight budget overrun.
Later in the meeting, Jailer Bert Slone presented next year’s budget of $933,200 to the court. County Treasurer Frazier said the budget will have to be sent to the state before the first of April. Adams said that every jail struggles, and the state continues to sweep the issue aside, even though county jails incarcerate people who have broken state laws.
Slone also reported that the jail’s commissary fund started the month of February with a balance of $129,103 and finished on February 28 with $130,765. Total commissary receipts were $28,696.12 and total expenditures were $27,033.76
The court also voted to accept the bid from Ernie Scott for the Boone Fork Senior Citizens building at Fleming and to negotiate with Scott to see if a satisfactory price can be reached.
In other matters concerning bids and procurement, the court voted to refer the matter of a cooling tower for the courthouse back to engineer Russ Litfinger of Marcum Energy Management Solutions in Paducah, to see if a more favorable price can be negotiated. Judge Adams said the Litfinger had been selected by the Administrative Office of the Courts to evaluate systems. The Administrative Office of the Courts will pay part of the costs for the tower. The system Litfinger picked for the courthouse came in at $310,000, which Adams said is over budget.
Ron Brunty of the Letcher County Conservation District gave a short report on activities the district has planned for the coming year. Brunty said the district board has completed its annual financial report and now it plans to “hit the ground running” after being hampered by COVID-19 last spring and summer. He said the district board intends to improve recreation opportunities at Fishpond Lake at Payne Gap as well as Jenkins Lake, and will probably add another fishing dock at one of the lakes as well.
Brunty said the district has a “grand plan” for Lilley Cornett Woods that includes expanding the area containing old-growth timber. Lilley Cornett Woods is owned by the state and administered by Eastern Kentucky University as an experiment station.
Brunty said the district also has an emergency fund to clean rivers and streams that have been damaged due to flooding or heavy rainfall. Brunty said Connie Sturgill is the contact person at the Soil and Water Conservation District for the emergency funding. He added that the district intends to sponsor a fish and game camp this summer.
The court made several changes in the administrative code, including a change in attendance rules for inclement weather, and changing the amount that is required to make a bid necessary. To stay within state guidelines, the court raised that amount from $20,000 to $30,000, meaning that purchases under $30,000 no longer require a competitive bid. The court also voted unanimously to participate in the COVID CDBG-CV Utilities Plan that allows for grants to individuals who get behind in utilities payments due to COVID issues.
Letcher County Senior Citizens Director Debbie Baker presented the court with this year’s award for Elder Abuse Awareness, and said no other organization has done more for seniors in the county than the court.
Bank balance recap for county agencies as of February 28, 2021:
General Fund $975,638.84
Road and Bridge Fund $346,956.87
Jail Fund $318,428.46
LGEA Fund $774,479.73
Senior Citizens Fund $229.76
Forestry Fund $16,218.20
Total of al l funds $2,428,951.86