Refurbishing the old Daniel Boone Hotel and building a downtown fountain should be the City of Whitesburg’s top two priorities for attracting tourism, Mayor James W. Craft said this week.
Responding to a question from Letcher County Tourism Commission
Director Dr. David Narramore, said he believes remodeling the historic downtown hotel and building a fountain should be the city’s top tourism-related building priorities.
Craft’s comments came after the Whitesburg City Council agreed to participate with the Letcher County Fiscal Court and groups of individuals and business leaders to provide input to the Tourism Commission in a grantsponsored effort to enhance the City of Whitesburg for business and tourism.
Narramore, a Whitesburg dentist, visited the council to ask for the city’s help in fulfilling a $10,000 “Streetscapes of Whitesburg” grant that will be used develop a three-part approach to grow the city.
Narramore told the council the tourism commission wants to use the Streetscapes grant to attract businesses to locate in Whitesburg, to attract tourists to the city, and to make the city’s streets appealing to residents. Narramore said the planning will go along those lines and answer the questions: 1) How do we want it to look? 2) How do we make it appealing to businesses in a manner that would entice them to locate downtown? And 3) how do we make it attractive to tourists?
Councilman John Williams said he is concerned about the numerous empty buildings on Main Street and said he would like to see a plan developed to help attract businesses to locate downtown.
Narramore said the commission will meet with the Fiscal Court and with citizens and business groups to seek additional input. He said so far, one suggestion was a “period streetscape,” taking the city’s ambiance back to the early 1900s, but added no decision has been made. Narramore emphasized existing attractions and said one thing that is very important is to keep tourists in town as long as possible when they do visit.
“We want to keep visitors in Whitesburg when they come to the Mountain Heritage festival and other things,” said Narramore. “We want to make it nice enough for them to want to stay.”
Narramore said Letcher County is not alone in focusing more attention on tourism, mentioning the World Chicken Festival in London, which is now held on the same weekend as the Mountain Heritage Festival.
In other business, Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who works with the city on water issues, told the council the plans for the Water Intake Project have been approved and asked Mayor Craft to write a letter to the effect that the city has also approved them. Nesbitt said Water Maintenance Superintendent Chris Caudill has worked with Project Engineer Mark Fibus on the plans, which also include locating a valve inside the plant that controls water running through the dam. The valve is now frozen and in a location on the dam that exposes city workers to the risk of falling. The council also voted to approve an invoice of just over $24,000 to Nesbitt Engineering for the design work and other assistance with the project that will be paid as a pass through from the Kentucky Division of Water.
Ken Howard of Summitt Engineering told the council the third phase of the Recreation Center Water Line Project is well underway and will complete the project when it is finalized. Phase one extended an eight inch line to the recreation center, and the second phase took the line up Solomon Road to increase water pressure to residents. The third phase will install a pump station to guarantee that water pressure is constant for all the residents. Howard said the pump house is now up and ready for an electrical drop and the pumps are in and being kept at the city water plant.
Howard also asked that extra funding left over from the project be applied to two small jobs, repairing a collapsed storm drain on Texas Avenue and repairing sluice gates at the water plant. The council voted to give Mayor Craft the authority to negotiate with the contractors for change orders to accommodate the projects. Chris Caudill also reported that city workers found and repaired a major leak behind the Whitesburg campus of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College with the aid of Kentucky Rural Water.
Mayor Craft read a letter from Dr. Bruce Ayres of SKCTC informing the city that the Hogg Allied Health Building on the Whitesburg campus has some problems with the roof and asked that the roof be repaired. The building is owned by the city and Craft said the college pays $2,000 per month rent for the building. In his letter, Dr. Ayres said if the city does not wish to incur the approximate $35,000 expense of re-roofing the building, the college would be happy to accept the building if the council wishes to transfer it to them.
Mayor Craft told the council he does not want to see the city lose the building and said he has asked Richardson Associates Architects of Whitesburg, the project architect on the building, to see if any warranty still exists on the roof. Craft said that regardless of the warranty, he would like to see the city keep the building and come up with the funds to repair the roof. The council voted unanimously in favor of Craft’s suggestion.
In the Mayor’s Report, Craft told the council the Police Commission had decided the city needs a four-wheel drive police vehicle for bad weather use and had suggested the city sell one police cruiser in order to buy a 2010 Ford Explorer. The council voted unanimously to approve the commission’s request.
Craft also reported that Friday’s Christmas Parade was a tremendous success. He said Dr. Narramore won first place in the Business Category for decorating his office on Main Street and the Seco Freewill Baptist Church won first place in the parade float competition.
The council also voted to buy a Christmas ham for each city worker and member of the Whitesburg Volunteer Fire Department.