Letcher County’s government is interested in buying the vacant McRoberts Elementary School.
At its April meeting Monday night, the Letcher Fiscal Court voted to negotiate the purchase of the school if all bids submitted to the Jenkins Independent School District are rejected next week. The bids were due April 21 and will be opened April 28 by the Jenkins Board of Education. The county did not submit a bid.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming made a motion authorizing the court to enter into negotiations for the school, but Letcher Judge/ Executive Jim Ward said he would be uncomfortable asking the school board to throw bids out that were fairly submitted. County Attorney Jamie Hatton cautioned the court as well, saying that since the bids won’t be opened until next Monday, it would not be advisable for the court to take action until after it learns what the school board does with the bids.
Fleming told the court he had spoken with senior citizens at the Boone Fork Senor Citizens Center at Fleming, and they said they would like to see the brick and mortar McRoberts building become the center’s new home. The court has been looking for a solution to problems with the Boone Fork Center. The large frame building, built early last century by the Elkhorn Coal Corporation, is in bad condition and is considered to be beyond repair.
Fleming said the Jenkins board does not have to accept any of the bids it receives and added that he does not want to see the community of McRoberts lose the school. Ward said there is some question about the playground, but said he believes the playground and equipment, much of which was purchased with money allocated by the court, is exempt from the bid solicitation. However, Jim Scott said the bid as advertised was for the entire property.
Fleming said the court has $100,000 in coal severance funds that were allocated for the Boone Fork Center and have not yet been used. He believes the Jenkins board would be willing to sell the building and grounds to the county and made a motion that the court start negotiating with the Jenkins board on April 29, the day after the bids are to be opened. Ward added that the court will have to look for ways to cover the expense of maintaining and providing electricity for the building if it should purchase it.
Ward said the electric bill alone ran about $3,000 a month and there would be other expenses as well. He suggested the court members consider ways to generate additional revenue if they do enter into negotiations for the school. Ward said the building is much larger than the senior citizens program would need, adding that the county could look at other possibilities for filling the unused space. He added that the court will probably see further cuts in the next budget and would have to consider that. Fleming said the court could just close part of the building off until a use is found.
In other business, the court voted to change the date and time of its regular May meeting to Tuesday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Letcher District Courtroom. Ward said the change was needed to avoid a conflict with election workers who will be undergoing training for the primary election on the regular meeting date.
Paul Nesbitt of Nesbit Engineering told the court that residents who live within the boundaries of the Payne Gap Water Project should be able to hook onto county water soon. He said the Lecher County Water and Sewer District should begin adding customers in the area within 90 days.
Nesbitt also told the court that plans for an “interconnect” between water lines belonging to the City of Jenkins and the Fleming Neon Water District are nearly complete. He said the project would be paid for with funding from Abandoned Mine Lands (AML). Nesbitt said the interconnect will enable the Fleming-Neon District to be supplied by Jenkins in case problems arise with Fleming Neon’s water source. Ward added that Fleming- Neon will be connected to Jenkins lines at Haymond, and to county lines at Deane and Millstone.
Nesbitt said Abandoned Mine Lands funding available to the county will be reduced in the coming fiscal year, but that Letcher County is still at the top of AML’s list for funding because of the county’s need. District Four Magistrate Keith Adams reminded the court that residents of the Carcassonne area are now eligible to be hooked up as well.
The court also voted unanimously to pass a resolution that allows for the use of leftover funding from the Pert Creek-Cram Creek- Pine Creek water project to pay for the extension of water lines into Loggy Hollow at Dry Fork. Ward said the lines would serve 17 homes in Loggy Hollow as well as homes on Tolliver Road.
The court also discussed sanitation rates, in particular the rate the county pays to have solid waste transported to a landfill.
At the court’s March meeting, Ward said that after the current hauler told him a rate increase would be inevitable, he learned that Letcher County can dump at the Pikeville landfi ll for $31.75 per ton. Ward asked the court to approve a motion authorizing him to advertise for bids for hauling the solid waste from the Millstone Transfer Station to the Pikeville landfill, and the court approved his request unanimously.
The court also approved a request from Mark Saunier of Lexington-based Comfort & Process Solutions to perform energy audits on county- owned buildings at no charge to the county. Saunier, who founded CPS in 1999, told the court that energy rates in Kentucky, which once were among the lowest in the nation, have risen dramatically of late and will rise again in the near future. He said his company would undertake the energy audits for no fee. If the audits show substantial savings can be achieved with modifications to the properties, CPS can then enter into an arrangement with the court that will allow part of the amount the county saves on energy charges to pay the fee charged by CPS to make cost-saving modifications.
Ward issued a proclamation to show the court’s appreciation to Blackey resident Wayne Caudill for his help in saving the county thousands of dollars in hauling costs for gravel. Ward said Caudill had volunteered to allow the county to store gravel on his property at no charge. He said the ability to store gravel in Blackey for use on roadwork in the area not only saved the county in fuel costs by preventing the Letcher County Road Department from having to send a truck all the way back to the county garage each time more gravel is needed, it also prolongs the life of the trucks and saves man hours by reducing the approximate two-hour trip from Blackey to Mayking and back.
Larry Jones of the Kingdom Come Community Center told the court the center will hold the Sugar Grove Opry Mountain Coal Festival on May 3, featuring David Ball, the Country Troubadour, Tyler Stephens and Mikey Tolliver. There will be a rally for coal, cornhole tournaments, and other events. Concessions will be sold and music will begin at 4 p.m. Admission is free and the event will be held rain or shine. For information, call 606-279-5758 or 606-633-4912. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chair.
Gary Rogers of the Letcher Fire Department told the court the new rescue truck is well equipped and ready to go. The truck was paid for with county funds and will serve the entire county.
Rogers also asked the court to take action to see that campaign signs are removed within 30 days after the election. Ward said the court already has such an ordinance in effect. County Attorney Hatton said it is difficult to prosecute candidates whose signs are left up because not all of the signs are put up by the candidates or at their direction.
The court voted unanimously to pass a resolution dedicating the following roads to Letcher County veterans: the bridge at the Gordon Fire Department in honor of Specialist 4 Otis Gilliam, U.S. Army, and the road off Highway 15 at Raymond’s Branch in Dry Fork for Sergeant Raymond A. Brown, U.S. Air Force.
Bank balances for county agencies as of April 16:
• General Fund $309,230.64
• Road and Bridge Fund $673,852.21
• Jail Fund $61,877.56
• LGEA Fund $546,050.91
• Senior Citizens Fund $155,456.52
• Forestry Fund $15,926.73
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account $411,103.32
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service $64,032.88