By WILLIAM FARLEY
The Letcher County Fiscal Court has approved proposed budgets from County Court Clerk Winston Meade and Sheriff Danny Webb. Both budgets were lower than last year.
Meade presented the court with a check for $3,100 for a final settlement of the 2015 fees, and a budget for $5,532,500. Meade thanked car dealers in surrounding counties for sending registration fees to Letcher County and reminded Letcher County residents purchasing cars out of state to ask that the fees be sent to his office.
Sheriff Webb’s budget, presented by Deputy LaShawna Frazier, called for receipts of $697,075 against projected disbursements of $697,060, with a surplus of $15. Frazier told the court the sheriff ’s budget, which was hit hard by losses of coal severance receipts last year, was down by $59,000 for this year. Both budgets were approved unanimously.
Letcher County Tourism Commission Chairman David Narramore of Whitesburg reported on tourism activity and said the cuts from coal severance receipts as well as lower motel utilization tax receipts have made it difficult for the commission to promote county attractions. Narramore said that Letcher County will not be featured in a guide produced by the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet that highlights attractions and events throughout the state.
Narramore added that the commission is attempting to collect enough motel utilization tax to move forward and that it is working on a promotional piece to showcase the county for 2016 that will promote local restaurants, motels, and industries associated with tourism.
In response to positive comments by court members about the Christmas decorations and general appearance of Whitesburg, Narramore replied that the city is still vital and working to become a true tourism destination.
Letcher Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Rogers asked the court about the lease procedures for the community and senior citizens centers the court is closing, and Judge Ward told him they are being ironed out. Ward said that the centers will be available to their respective communities for lease and the kitchen equipment will, for the most part, be available as well. Rogers told Ward that if any of the centers has a cooler measuring at least eight feet by six feet, Letcher Fire and Rescue would be interested in obtaining it to store bodies.
Rogers’ query drew laughter from around the courtroom, but he explained that sometimes, in the event of a serious automobile accident or other events that result in several deaths, there is no place to store corpses until they can be transported to Frankfort. Third District Magistrate Woody Holbrook jokingly asked Rogers if Letcher Fire and Rescue wants to become the county morgue, and Rogers replied that there is no other morgue in the county.
Neon resident Robin Mullins attended the meeting to voice her displeasure with the changes made to the senior citizens program. Mullins said she disapproves of centralizing the meeting place at the Letcher County Recreation Center, and asked Judge Ward how the seniors would get to the center. Ward told her the county will provide transportation, but in response to further questions, he said that home pickup will probably not be possible in many cases.
Mullins also dislikes the home meal delivery process and said she does not believe the meals will stay fresh. Ward assured her that they will, and Peggy Roll, Human Resources director at Kentucky River Area Development District, told her the meals are U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved, and are sealed and will stay fresh if refrigerated.
Most of Mullins’s arguments were similar to those made at the two November meetings that saw the vote that decided the fate of the senior citizens program. Ward told her that regardless of the wishes of individual court members to keep the program going at the local centers, the county can no longer afford to operate them and centralizing was the only affordable option.
Mullins also complained about the Letcher County Road Department and the lack of repairs to the road she lives on. She said she lives in Neon on Misty Branch, which she said is a county road, and it hasn’t been repaired in years.
“What about the county road department?” asked Mullins. “All they ever do is sit on the side of the road and sleep.”
“You must be seeing the state,” replied Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams.
During the bill payment portion of the meeting, Magistrate Fleming asked about two $38,000 expenditures for medical treatment for prisoners at the county jail. Finance Officer Doris Jean Frazier told him that the men are both state prisoners and the money will be reimbursed by the state. Frazier said the reimbursement of medical costs is a customary practice and Ward said that the county will be out about $1,000 on each prisoner. He said that the county shouldn’t have any charges for state prisoners, but they are charged that amount for medical procedures.