Whitesburg KY

Industrial park is expected to grow

Services Company is looking to expand its operations, just three years after becoming the first tenant at the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins.

Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest said Houston-based B.J. Services, a Fortune 500 company which provides pressure pumping and other services to the natural gas and oil drilling industries, is now considering opening a tool division at the industrial park, where it already has a 12,290-square-foot facility on about seven acres. The company now serves Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee from its Jenkins site.

DePriest made the announcement at the December meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court. He also reported that Drill Steel Services has completed its purchase of a lot in Gateway Park, and will move its operations from Highway 15 in Whitesburg after construction of a new 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot facility is finished.  Drill Steel manufactures and sells drill bits, roof bolts and other steel products used in the mining business.

DePriest said the combination of working to expand and grow existing local businesses and to bring in new ones follows a strategy he has worked on since taking the economic development position.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” agreed Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward. “We need new jobs and new companies, but 75 percent of all jobs come from existing companies like Drill Steel Services. It’s not always about new companies. It’s about expansion, too.”

DePriest said state incentives necessary to attract companies to industrial sites like Gateway are not limited to out-of-state companies but can apply to in-state companies as well. He said the formula the state uses to determine incentives has nothing to do with location and everything “I can get tax incentives for instate companies as well as outof state companies,” said DePriest. “But it has to bring in new jobs. The more jobs they bring in the more money they can get. The state makes no difference, and it grows local businesses.”

DePriest told the court he also plans to ask the state for funds to pay construction of another “spec” building at Gateway. A spec building is a semi-finished building which can be adapted to a number of uses. The first spec building was purchased by Drillers LLC, which has invested $2.5 million in its recently-opened operation that modifies and remanufactures parts and assemblies of drill rigs and other drilling equipment.

Ward told the court another company had been scheduled to visit the industrial park, but bad weather had caused it to postpone the visit.

In other business, the court approved budgets for the County Court Clerk’s office and for Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb’s office. County Court Clerk Winston Meade told the court his office had realized unbudgeted fees due to people paying back taxes and $18,000 of excess fees would be given to the fiscal court. Meade said the excess was from unpaid taxes and from purchases of back taxes by a Nebraska company which specializes in purchasing unpaid taxes from counties and municipal governments. In response to a question from Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming, Meade said collections will probably be down next year on back taxes.

“A lot of people have caught up on back taxes,” said Meade. “The Nebraska company bought over $600,000 in back taxes and they will be back next year. Other companies will be bidding on them, too. If people don’t pay their taxes next year somebody will be buying them.”

The court unanimously approved a $5,212,327 budget for the County Court Clerk’s office for 2008. Lashawna Frazier of the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department presented the 2008 budget of $699,450 which was also approved unanimously. Fleming mentioned numerous improvements Meade has made to the County Court Clerk’s office, including new computers and a more spacious deed room.

The court also heard a request from the Old Jenkins High School Committee for a change order for $10,000 to make the second-floor elevator landing safer. Judge Ward told the court the original architect’s drawings hadn’t accounted for an open stairwell so near the elevator, which is primarily for handicap access. Magistrate Fleming said it presents a danger to anyone in a wheelchair or on a walker in its current design. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson said if project architect Lee Sims of Lexington had made the mistake he should have to pay for it or at least not make any profit from the change order. Fleming told Gibson an architect doesn’t realize any profit on a change order and the contractor will not do the additional work for no cost. Fleming said the money would have been included in the original bid if the drawings had been correct. The vote was three to two with Gibson and District Four Magistrate Keith Adams voting no and Fleming, Ward, and District Two Magistrate Archie Banks voting yes. First District Magistrate Bobby Lewis did not attend the meeting.

Monica Couch of Bluegrass Hospice approached the court for a request of support for a new hospice to be built in Hazard which will serve a five-county area including Letcher County. Couch said the hospice’s main focus is on in-home care, but for patients who can no longer be cared for at home, it will strive to make the hospice setting as home-like as possible. The building will be 15,000 square feet and will serve Breathitt, Perry, Knott, and Leslie counties, in addition to Letcher County. Funds will come from multi-county coal severance taxes. Ward emphasized that participating in multicounty projects is the only way an individual county can access these funds. Multi-county funds do not affect single county coal severance tax funds and have no impact on any projects funded by single county coal severance taxes.

The court also agreed to transfer several garbage customers to the City of Jenkins in response to an offer made by Jenkins Mayor Charles Dixon. Ward said the customers are mostly located in areas like Dairy Hollow and Joe’s Branch, just out of the Jenkins city limits, but included in the city services area. Ward said the cost to the county in fuel alone is a good deal more than the fees from garbage collection, and Jenkins is in a better position to collect monthly fees as well since the city provides water and sewer service to the areas.

Fleming also asked the court to allocate $25,000 to Jenkins to help the city locate and repair water leaks which continue to cost the city thousands of dollars. Fleming told the court Jenkins figures prominently in county plans to provide water to the Payne Gap area and along the Kentucky River. Both proposals were approved unanimously.

The court awarded bids for a number of services the county requires:

. Walker Welding of Jenkins was awarded the bid for welding services.

. Walker Concrete (no relation to Walker Welding) of Dry Fork received the bid for concrete services.

. MJ&M of Perry County was awarded the bids for plumbing and electric work as well as for carpentry, and for providing motor oils to the county.

. Breeding Electric was awarded the bid for HVAC (heating and air conditioning) work, with the exception of air-conditioning towers on the courthouse which will require a specialist, and for providing bridge lumber to the county.

. Mountain Enterprises received the bid to provide asphalt.

. G&K Services was awarded the bid to clean rugs in county buildings.

The court also:

. Voted unanimously to set speed limits of 10 miles per hour in Whitco Loop and 15 miles per hour at Gray’s Branch.

. Voted unanimously to approve the second reading of an
ordinance which will keep the county in compliance with Federal Emergency
Management Agency Flood Insurance regulations.

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