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Fiscal court wants architect replaced




A North Carolina architecture firm has drawn the ire of the Letcher Fiscal Court for the second time in less than two years.

Matthews Architects of Asheville first drew criticism here early in 2006 after fiscal court members disapproved of the manner in which the firm handled the planning of a proposed multi-purpose building for the community of McRoberts.

Matthews was the subject of more controversy last week when court members instructed the director of the Little Shepherd Theater in Jenkins to hire a new architect.

The issue arose after Don Amburgey told the court the Little Shepherd board of directors was close to learning whether it will be awarded a $400,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to build an amphitheater.

Letcher Judge/Executive Jim Ward told Amburgey he is not comfortable with continuing to employ Matthews Architects, and other court members expressed their wish to hire another architect to complete the project.

“We’ve had problems with Matthews before,” said Ward. “We had a lot of problems with this architect. We ended up letting them go on another project. It didn’t work out at all.”

“They cost us $25,000,” said District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming. “We lost $25,000 on a building in McRoberts.”

Fleming asked Amburgey how much he had already paid the firm and was told $13,000. Amburgey questioned whether the theater could continue to use the plans provided by Matthews if the firm is discharged.

“Why?” asked Fleming. “We paid for them.”

Amburgey also told the court the theater will hold its Indian Summer Arts Festival October 5- 7. He said the festival will feature arts, crafts, food and music. He said he would also like to start a horse show to go along with the festival.

In other business last week, the court voted unanimously to give each community-affiliated festival committee in Letcher County $1,000 to help cover operating expenses. The vote came in response to a request from Leanna Mullins and Connie Fields of the Mountain Heritage Festival Committee for help in defraying the cost of renting two large tents which cover display tables operated by vendors and community organizations.

After hearing the request, Fleming made the motion to give each festival $1,000. In years past, the Letcher County Tourism Commission gave $1,000 to each festival, but the commission no longer has the funding to continue the support. Aside from the Mountain Heritage Festival, the other festivals which will receive the funding are the Jenkins Homecoming Festival, Blackey Day, Isom Days, and Neon Days.

The Mountain Heritage Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week.

The court also:

• Voted to provide $8,000 to the City of Jenkins as a match for a $16,000 grant the city received for playground equipment. Ward told the court that since the county had received $20,000 from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife to be used for constructing a boat dock at Fishpond Lake, it had the funding available to provide the money to Jenkins. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson asked about progress on a park for Thornton and was told that the county is still working on a land agreement.

• Heard a report from Economic Development Director Joe DePriest. DePriest said the sale of the spec building to Drillers LLC at Gateway Industrial Park has been finalized and that Drillers LLC has commenced operations in the area. Deputy Court Clerk Sue Dunn told the court that Drillers LLC has already had a positive economic impact on the county just by the number of vehicle licenses it has purchased and the property tax it has paid.

• Asked County Attorney Harold Bolling to get an opinion on whether a discount pharmaceutical service used by the Letcher County Jail should fall under state regulations requiring bids. Bolling said it is a gray area and the state doesn’t include that expense on its audits of county financial records.

• Heard a report from Sam Adams representing the county tourism commission. Adams told the court that Letcher County has been approved as a Preserve America site and will be eligible for four rounds of annual funding. Adams asked about a link to the county website and Judge Ward told him that court members will attend training sessions on how to maintain the county’s website. Adams said www.letchercountytourism.com is the commission’s website.

• Heard a report from Jane Roberts of the Hemphill Community Center. Roberts said the center will hold a Halloween Safe Night on October 31 and it is currently taking donations of money or goods for gift packages to be sent to Letcher County soldiers serving in Iraq. Call 855- 4396 for further information.

• Received a visit from Civil War re-enactors dressed in period costume who asked for a donation for the Battle of Leatherwood re-enactment and the military ball which follows. The court voted to give them $1,600. Education Director John Peek said that several area schools plan field trips to the battle site.

• Voted to add the lease payment for county-owned Mack trucks purchased last year to the annual standing order to pre-approve recurring expenses. This means the check will be written every month without needing a prior vote by the court.

• Received an invitation to attend a fundraising dinner to benefit the Old Jenkins High School. The dinner will be held October 10 from 6 to 9:00 p.m. at the Jenkins Masonic Lodge. The menu includes prime rib and a silent auction will he held as well.

In reports from county agencies:

• The court received an invoice from the Letcher County Tourism Commission for $1,000 for annual dues in Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism of Somerset and another for $150 for lawn care and maintenance at the Letcher County Tourism headquarters.

• The county road foreman reported that county crews have graveled and graded roads throughout the county as well as cutting brush, and cold patching holes in paved roads. Road crews also hauled the county’s recycling to Lexington, poured concrete at the helipad at Jenkins, patched the end of a bridge at Hemphill, worked on break-offs on May Road and installed and maintained several culverts.

• Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto reported that an agreement with the City of Whitesburg on leasing land for the Skatepark has been reached and that the tennis court restructuring project at Whitesburg has been completed. Barto said the surface is the same as the one used in the United States Open Tennis Tournament.

• Litter Warden Darrel Banks reported checking 14 dumps and having four citations written on eight names found in the dumps. Banks also answered 12 complaints and had four homes cleaned up.

Bank balances as of September 14 are:

• General Fund – $319,459

• Road and Bridge – $1,746,224

• Jail Fund – $128,088

• LGEA Fund – $718,868

• Senior Citizens Fund – $76,237

• Forestry Fund – $3,213

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account – $64,361

• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account – $399,440

• Letcher County Abandoned Mine Lands Fund – $20,160


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