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Fiscal court moves forward with plan to open ATV trails to visiting tourists


The Letcher County Fiscal Court took a step forward this week toward the longtime goal of developing a trail system for all-terrain vehicles in the county, and connecting to trail systems in other counties and eventually in adjoining states.

At its September meeting Monday night, the court voted unanimously to pay the $5,000 annual cost to be part of the Kentucky Mountain Recreational Authority.

The Kentucky Mountain Recreational Authority is concerned with tying recreational vehicle trails together in eastern Kentucky in much the same way as the very successful Hatfield-McCoy Trail system is tied together in West Virginia. Missy Matthews, who chairs the Letcher County Tourism Commission, told the court that $5,000 from each of the 27 counties that join the Authority will be used to help pay the costs of hiring an executive director and full-time support staff for the current fiscal year. She added that at this time the tourism commission is looking for people who are knowledgeable about ATV trails in Letcher County. She said the goal is to eventually connect to trails in Pike and Harlan counties and then to trails in West Virginia and Virginia.

Matthews believes the trail system could significantly help turn tourism into a tool of economic development in the county.

In a related matter, Matthews asked the court to adopt a resolution supporting the $3.5 million Abandoned Mine Lands grant that will help pay for the development of the proposed Thunder Mountain recreational and shooting resort at Marlowe.

Letcher County Judge/Executive Terry Adams said both projects would be of tremendous benefit to the county. State Rep. Angie Hatton, who represents Letcher County in the Kentucky General Assembly, said she and her family recently visited part of the Hatfield- McCoy Trail in Mann, West Virginia. She said she was surprised by the large economic impact the trail has brought to that region.

Chris Caudill, a City of Whitesburg employee who is an ATV rider and outdoorsman, said he gets phone calls from people from different states asking where they can ride in Letcher County. He said he gets a lot of calls from Indiana, where it is difficult to find open country, and that many of the visitors return every year and bring friends with them. Caudill believes the trail and resort will definitely provide an economic boost to the county.

In other business, the court voted to allow a student representative to participate from Letcher County Central High School and Jenkins High School. The respective schools will determine the student representative, and each one will serve for part of the school year. The position will be a non-voting one, but the students will be allowed to participate in discussions.

The court also accepted the tax rates for special taxing districts and added its own tax rates for presentation for the coming tax period.

The tax rates for Letcher County are unchanged from last year at 19.7 cents per $100 in real and personal property and 13.70 cents per $100 for motor vehicles and watercraft. Taxes for Letcher County Soil Conservation are 2.7 cents per $100 for real property. The tax rate for the Board of Health is set at 8 cents per $100 for real property, personal property, and motor vehicles and watercraft.

The Letcher County Library Board set taxes at 12.3 cents per $100 for real property, 17.99 cents per $100 for personal property, and 5.32 cents per $100 for motor vehicles and watercraft. The Letcher County Extension Office rates are set at 13.135 cents per $100 for real property, 23.118 cents per $100 for personal property, and 3 cents per $100 for motor vehicles and watercraft.

Jenkins Independent Schools set its rates at 85.20 cents per $100 in real and personal property and 69 cents per $100 for motor vehicles and watercraft. Letcher County Public Schools adopted a rate of 66.90 cents per $100 for real and personal property and 49.6 cents per $100 for motor vehicles and watercraft.

Except for its own property tax rate, the fiscal court has no say in the tax rates set by any of the taxing districts, and can only attest that it has accepted them.

The court also passed an informal resolution in support of the Letcher County Complete Count Committee’s efforts at full participation of county citizens in the United States Census. The census is required by the U.S. Constitution every ten years, and it ensures fair representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the redistricting of state legislatures, city councils and voting districts. It also ensures fair distribution of funds by the U.S. government and creates jobs in the Census Bureau. Adams said it is very important for every citizen to participate in the census. It will begin in March 2020 when cards will be sent with the web address for online participation for the first time. Paper census forms will be sent to every household as well, and if that fails, census workers will visit to conduct a personnel interview.

Second District Magistrate Sherry Sexton gave a report from the court’s Economic Development Committee asking that the county fund repairs to the old Ermine Senior Citizens Center so it can be used for teleworks training that will be conducted by EKCEP, the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. Sexton also reminded the court that people in Letcher County would be able to pay their county taxes online this year.

The court voted unanimously to purchase its usual advertisement in the program for the Battle of Leatherwood reenactment, which will be held on October 25. The court usually splits a half-page ad with the Letcher County Tourism Commission at a cost of $250 each.

The court also voted to dedicate Highway 806 in Eolia for Private Arlie Boggs, U.S. Army, and Corporal Kendall Boggs, Army. Both men went on to serve as superintendent of the Letcher County School System.

Bank balances for county agencies as of August 31

• General Fund: $797,231.51

• Road and Bridge Fund: $1,374,979.09

• Jail Fund: $80,976.01

• LGEA Fund: $663,256.55

• Senior Citizens Fund: $228.65

• Forestry Fund: $18,364.20

Total of all funds : $2,935,036.01

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