The atmosphere at the September meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court this week became somewhat tense as the location of a proposed garbage treatment facility was again questioned by a group of Millstone residents who don’t want it in their community.
David Napier, who acted as spokesman for the residents, questioned statements made by Charlie Grote of Green Pac Environmental in a letter to the editor that appeared in the August 10 edition of The Mountain Eagle and told the court that he had been unable to find any permit for a new treatment facility on file in Frankfort.
“The (state Energy and Environment Cabinet) said they don’t have a copy of the permit,” said Napier.
“ There isn’t one,” answered Judge/Executive Jim Ward. “We filed for one (in 2005) but it didn’t go through.”
Napier said he had contacted the waste management division of the City of Cincinnati government and was told that it was Cincinnati city officials and not landfill operator Waste Management Inc. that expressed concerns about the waste reduction technology the court is looking into for Letcher County. Napier added that the process of steaming garbage to reduce its size is not safe and could leave toxic waste such as mercury, copper, and zinc to drain into the Kentucky River watershed. He also questioned the amount of garbage the county has to use for the process.
Ward told Napier that it would take between 70 and 100 tons per day to operate the “cookers” that reduce the waste and said there are no current plans to bring in garbage from outside Letcher County in the event the court decides to use the waste reduction technology method of disposing of the county’s garbage. Ward emphasized the uncertainty of the project actually being conducted in Letcher County and told Napier and the rest of the Millstone contingent that the entire proposal is still in the early stages and that no decision has been made as to whether to adopt it.
“ We haven’t made a decision,” said Ward. “We’re not ready to be there yet.”
Brenda Reynolds of Millstone told Ward she would like to see the process used somewhere else for a while in order to see how well it works and how safe it is.
“Could you put this off for a while until you see if those people die off?” said Reynolds.
Regardless of their individual reasons for opposing the new garbage treatment proposal, the Millstone residents all said they have already borne the brunt of the problems associated with the county landfill in Millstone. Several people remarked about overloaded garbage trucks and said the narrow road in Millstone makes the current volume of traffic dangerous. One man said his wife had been run off the road by a tractortrailer carrying garbage to the landfill.
Napier said an interview Ward had with WYMT-TV in Hazard left the impression the process will be running by January 1. Ward said that while that date was talked about in the initial meeting with Grote, it would not be possible without a permit in place. Napier said if the problem is with the cost of running the Letcher County Sanitation Department, the solution could be as simple as increasing collections. However, Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton told the court that collection of sanitation fees runs above 90 percent now. Napier also questioned the long-term viability of Green Pac.
“Everywhere that equipment has been used they have gotten out within a year or two,” said Napier.
Judge Ward told the audience that while a permit application was filed in 2005, it wasn’t followed up on because there wasn’t enough garbage to run the facility and the administration at that time would not take in outside garbage. Ward said no new permit application has been filed.
“We’re still in the talking stages,” said Ward.
Millstone property owner Jerry Collins, who also spoke against the treatment facility at the court’s August meeting, said now would be the perfect time to file for a permit to locate the facility at Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who represents Jenkins, again expressed reservations about the process of using steam to reduce garbage.
“I can’t understand if this is such a great thing, why it’s not all over the place,” said Fleming, adding that the process is now in use in South America and on a couple of Indian reservations.
“Somehow that doesn’t seem right to me,” Fleming said.
Ward told the Millstone residents that any decision the court makes would be done in a way that is open and above board. He said the public would have ample notification of when the question will come before the court and will have the opportunity to speak for and against the facility in a public meeting of the fiscal court.
“It will have to be done in a public forum,” said Ward. “We said we would see if it would be practical in January but it isn’t going to happen in January.”
District Four Magistrate Keith Adams said the court has voted only to study the new technology to determine if it would work in Letcher County. Adams reminded the audience that nothing will be done without a formal vote by the court.
“We’ve never voted to do this,” said Adams. “It can’t be done without us voting for it.”
In other business, the court voted unanimously to buy a plaque to commemorate firefighters, police offi cers, emergency medical technicians and other first responders who sacrificed their own lives in order to protect their fellow citizens. The vote came after hearing a plea from Ralpha Adams, who said her son, a volunteer fireman, died in the line of duty 20 years ago. Ward introduced the motion to erect a plaque to honor the first responders and, after the vote, asked the public to call or to send the names of any first responders killed in the line of duty in Letcher County to his office.
The court also voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance that will leave the boundaries of the county’s five magisterial districts as they are. Paul Adams, one of the commissioners appointed by the county to study the reapportionment of magisterial districts, told the court that after careful study and with a lot of help from Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD), the commission did not find enough movement up or down in population in any of the districts to merit changing the boundaries.
“We voted to keep the districts just like they are,” said Adams. “It’s up to the court to act on our recommendation.”
The court voted first to follow the commission’s recommendations and then to approve the first reading of an ordinance County Attorney Hatton had prepared to leave the districts in place. The court also voted to take the necessary steps to pay KRADD for its assistance.
In other business, the court voted unanimously to accept the 2010 tax settlement from Sherriff Danny Webb. Whitesburg accountant Dennis Wayne Fleming delivered the settlement document to the court and said that Sherriff Webb collected a total of $8,197,202 out of a possible $8,892,716. He said that about half the delinquent amount was owed by one taxpayer, Sapphire Coal, and that he believed Sapphire had paid its taxes after he prepared his report. County Attorney Hatton confirmed that Sapphire had paid the bill.
The court also opened bids for a golf simulator for the county recreation center and for a heating system for the Hemphill Community Center. The bid from Full Swing Golf was the only one received for the golf simulator. Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto said the simulator has been used once as a demo and the price was reduced from more than $60,000 to the bid price of $35,500. Barto said it is the most popular simulator on the market with more than 70 courses in its databases. The court voted 4-2 to accept the bid with District Two Magistrate Terry Adams and Fleming voting no.
The court also voted to accept the $33,900 bid from Breeding’s Plumbing and Electric to supply and install a heat pump system in the Hemphill Community Center. The bid from Breeding was slightly higher than a bid from Appalachian Refrigeration of Perry County for $31,000, but several magistrates expressed a desire to do business with a Letcher County company. County Attorney Hatton said that because of the way the bid was written, the court was obligated to purchase the system that will work best for Hemphill and not necessarily the one with the lowest bid. The vote was 5- 1 with Terry Adams abstaining because he has business relations with Breeding’s.
The court also voted to accept tax rates from Letcher County Public Schools, Jenkins Independent Schools and the Letcher County Extension District. The tax rate from Letcher County Public Schools is 48.8 cents per $100 on real and tangible property and 49.6 cents per $100 on motor vehicles. The tax rate from the Letcher County Extension District is 4.9 cents per $100 on real property, 7.33 per $100 on personal property, and 3 cents per $100 on motor vehicles. The tax rate for Jenkins Independent Schools is 76.9 cents per $100 on real and tangible property and 69 cents per $100 for motor vehicles,witha3percent utility tax as well.
The court also:
• approved the first reading of ordinances to set the speed limit for Gap Branch and Dallas Drive at 10 MPH, as recommended by County Surveyor Richard Hall.
• voted unanimously to name the bridge at the mouth of Defeated Creek and the Junction of 1103 for Sgt. Fred Frazier and Sgt. Otis Frazier, both World War II veterans.
• voted unanimously to name a stretch of Highway 317 from mile point 1.353 to mile point 1.932 at Goose Creek for Command Sgt. Major Johnny D, Duncan and to name a second stretch 500 feet from Johnny Duncan’s sign for Sgt. Major Roy Lee Duncan.
• voted unanimously to name the road at the intersection of Craft’s Colly and Ermine for Tech 5 Verlon (Red) Hall, U.S. Army, WWII.
Bank Balances for County Agencies as of September 13, 2011
General Fund — $363,279.20
Road and Bridge Fund — $916,446.63
Jail Fund — $297,726.72
LGEA Fund — $1,302,727.25
Senior Citizens fund — $107,527.13
Forestry fund — $8,970.95
Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account — $543,745.00
Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account — $64,110.08