Beginning March 1, sanitation bills in Letcher County will go up slightly to support an increase in tipping fees by the company that transports Letcher County’s solid waste to the landfill.
As the February meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court was finishing its agenda, Judge/ Executive Terry Adams addressed the need to raise fees. Adams told the court that a post-Christmas surprise from Watco, the sanitation and landfill operator based in London that hauls Letcher County’s solid waste, had come in the form of an almost $5-a-ton increase. Adams said the increase, from $45.80 in December to $50.50 in January, had come as a complete surprise. He said that on average, Letcher County sends 1,000 tons a month to the landfill, and the rate hike will create a $56,400 increase per year.
In order to offset the increased cost for haulage fees, Adams suggested a slight raise in sanitation rates. He proposed an increase in tipping fees at the Millstone Transfer Station, for waste taken to the station, from $50 a ton to $55 per ton. Adams also proposed an increase in residential costs from $15 a month to $15.75 a month, with a senior citizens’ discounted rate going up from $13 to $13.75 per month.
Magistrates agreed that although it might seem painful for some people, a rate increase will be necessary to meet the rising costs. Adams and several others said this will not be the last time they have to address the matter. Solid Waste Coordinator Mike Gover said he has spoken with other sanitation officials in surrounding counties and they agree that rising tipping fees (costs to dump solid waste in landfills) is a national trend. Gover said Letcher County has kept costs lower than most surrounding counties, and it is paying the price for the low rates in old and sometimes untrustworthy equipment and low wages for workers.
Gover said he has been working to get funding to purchase a “digester”, a system that is able to turn organic solid waste into sterile compost, for Letcher County. Nonorganic waste is sorted and either recycled or sent to a landfill. Gover said it would be very expensive to install a digester-type system and he is exploring grants to help defray the costs. But if the county could get a digester, it would help keep long-term costs lower. For the time being, current landfill fees keep going up and Gover agreed that there is no alternative to a rate increase.
County Attorney Jamie Hatton said he will have an amendment to increase the sanitation fees ready by today (Wednesday). Adams said he will call a special meeting for that afternoon at 5:30 to conduct the first reading of the amendment, so a second reading can be conducted in time to have the increase in effect before March bills go out. Adams said that every month that passes without the increase, the Sanitation Department will incur a deficit of around $5,000.
In other business, Sheriff Mickey Stines presented the Annual Financial Statement of Excess Fees for calendar year 2019. Stines’s report showed gross receipts of $742,065.39 against total disbursements of $740,433.59. This leaves an excess of $1,631.80, pending audit. In a related matter, Stines told the court there had been no bids on several vehicles that were declared surplus and made available for bid. He said the department has since sold one for fair market value and asked that it be allowed to dispose of the others, which he said have no value. Stines also asked that a 2007 Ford Explorer be declared surplus and advertised for bid. The court approved his request.
The court voted unanimously to enter into the Kentucky Department of Transportation’s County Road Aid Cooperative Program Agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, returns from motor fuel taxes are set aside for construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of county roads and bridges. This year, Letcher County will have $1,226,236.01 available as of July 1, 2020. The funds will be allocated in three disbursements. The initial disbursement is $713,669, and the second disbursement will be up to 30 percent of the county’s apportionment. The KDOT will hold three percent out as an emergency fund. The final disbursement will be the remainder of actual revenues that will be tabulated at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Jailer Burt Slone told the court he is working to institute programs for inmates that will help to provide them with life skills. Slone said the jail now has a program that allows inmates to pursue a General Education Development certification that can be used in place of a high school diploma in some instances. He also introduced Adam Maggard of Mountain Comprehensive Care Center.
Maggard told the court he is working through MCCC to help provide services to jail inmates that will help them to be successful with life outside of jail, as well as coping while they are incarcerated. He said programs are offered at no charge and therapists and peer support services are available. Maggard said he is pursuing a grant for up to $250,000 to help pay for services in the incarcerated population of the region. He said that MCCC has a grant proposal writer on staff, and the grant will not cost the county anything, although Letcher County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier will need to provide financial oversight. Maggard said the grant would pay up to ten percent of Frazier’s salary in exchange for her work, and asked the court for a resolution of support. The court voted unanimously to support the grant proposal.
Slone also presented the Jail’s Commissary Report, showing beginning cash balance of $94,214.36. Total expenditures for January stood at $23,988.50 with receipts of $25,988.30. The Commissary Fund stood at $96,214.16 as of January 31, 2020.
The Commissary Fund comes from the sale of goods for inmates that are not regularly supplied by the jail, such as snacks, special sundries, and other things beyond basic needs. The fund pays for gasoline, tools, and guards’ salaries for Inmate Work Release Programs, as well as for a pharmacy technician to help prepare and distribute medications for inmates.
The court voted to place the following names on a roadside memorial honoring Jeremiah veterans. The memorial will be placed at the bridge at Perkins Branch in Jeremiah.
The names are Steve Banks, U.S. Navy, Steve Back, U.S Navy, Arlie Blair, Arlin James Blair, Arnold Blair, Bobby Harold Blair, Charles Arlie Blair, Charlie Blair, Ralph Blair, Russell Blair, Elmer Caudill, John D. Hampton, Richard Hampton, Lowell Zenith Ison, Hansford Whitaker, and Michael Dean Eldridge, all of whom served in the U.S. Army.
The court voted to accept sealed bids for the Boone Fork Senior Citizens Center rather than hold a public auction as originally planned. Adams said the bids will be advertised at the same time as a 2007 surplus Ford Explorer belonging to the sheriff ’s department. The court also went into executive session to discuss litigation concerning Uriah Road on Route 7, but announced that no action was taken when the members emerged.
Judge Adams announced that contractors working to complete the installation of broadband Internet in the Linefork area have made the first inroads by installing a line in the Red Star area.
Adams asked County Attorney Hatton if the county’s nuisance ordinance covers blighted and deteriorated properties and Hatton said it does. He told Adams that in order to proceed with declaring a property as blighted, the court will need to appoint a three-member board to evaluate the properties. Adams appointed Magistrates Maverick Cook and Benny McCall, and Finance Office Virginia Sandusky. Adams said that citizens in Blackey have expressed their willingness to pay to have a blighted house removed if the court will cover it under the removal process.
The court heard requests from several citizens of Letcher County. Drenda and Johnathon Fields of McRoberts said their property was being damaged by free roaming goats that belong to their neighbors. They said the neighbors should have the responsibility of keeping the goats confi ned and that they should not have to bear the expense of fencing their property or instituting a lawsuit to address the property damage from the goats. Judge Adams asked Hatton to look at drafting a county ordinance to cover nondomestic (farm) animals.
Mike Blair reported that he has a firm cost for the police memorial to be placed on courthouse property. Blair said the cost is $4,100 and it will probably cost an additional $900 to set the monument, for a total of $5,000. Blair set the fundraising goal at $5,000 and said when that amount is reached, he will cut off donations. He said he hopes to be able to begin construction in the spring.
Ron Vanover asked the court for a resolution of support for a Biblical theme park that would use land currently owned by a number of private landowners in Letcher and Harlan counties. He said he had a wide-ranging plan and the park could eventually employ 2,000 people and rival Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Hatton said he will have to examine Kentucky law relating to supporting religious efforts before the county can issue a resolution of support.
Bank Balances for County Agencies as of January 31, 2020
• General Fund: $721,265.59
• Road and Bridge Fund: $633,703.76
• Jail Fund: $85,866.54
• LGEA Fund: $156,886.64
• Senior Citizens Fund: $229.08
• Forestry Fund: $18,364.20
Total of all Funds: $1,616,315.81