Letcher County may join the Pike County Fiscal Court in a lawsuit against Kentucky Power Co., a division of American Electric Power. The suit charges that Kentucky Power’s negligence in maintaining power line rights-of-way resulted in the power outages that plagued eastern Kentucky during the Christmas holidays and caused thousands of families to spend the holiday in the dark and lose the food in their refrigerators and freezers.
The Pike County lawsuit was filed last week, and when District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked if there was a possibility that Letcher County might join in the lawsuit, Judge/Executive Jim Ward replied, “There is a good possibility.”
“There are a lot of people who are very angry about this,” said Fleming. “They want their government to do something about it. We would like to see the public get something back for what they lost.”
County Attorney Harold Bolling told the court that joining in the suit was something that should be examined, but said the county could only legally recoup money it had spent during the emergency. He said that individual property owners who lost food or suff ered other damage from the power outages could not be legally included in the county’s suit.
Judge Ward told the court the county’s response would be partially determined by the results of a public meeting planned by Commonwealth Attorney Edison Banks for the purpose of determining the extent of the damage caused by the power outage. The meeting was originally planned for January 7, but was postponed because of weather conditions. It will now be held at 10 a.m. on January 23. (Related story appears elsewhere in this edition.)
Monday night’s meeting opened with the announcement by Judge Ward that three long-awaited water projects have been approved by the Bureau of Land Management’s Department of Abandoned Mine Lands and are eligible for full funding. Water projects to bring treated water to residents of Cram Creek, Pert Creek, and Elk Creek, Carcassonne and Bull Creek, and Deane and Rockhouse will all be funded entirely by AML. Second District Magistrate Archie Banks added that with AML funding, water meters will be made available to new customers at no charge. The funds will be made available in late 2010 and work should begin in 2011.
County Court Clerk Winston Meade presented a check to the court for $28,000 as part of the annual Court Clerk’s Settlement with the court. Meade said he had hoped to have more but with his budget down $1 million and the severance tax down another $300,000, the projected $30,000 settlement was all he could come up with. He asked that the court accept the $28,000 until the audit was complete when the remainder will be turned over. The court voted unanimously to accept the settlement.
In other business, the court approved two resolutions authorizing the adoption of House Bill 410, adopting line item projects for Letcher County’s fiscal year 2010 coal severance funds. The projects include:
1. $100,000 for fire training for county fire departments at the Fleming-Neon Fire Department
2. $100,000 for improvements at Fishpond Lake
3. $250,000 for the Highway 160/Premium Water Project
4. $150,000 for the Letcher County Animal Shelter
5. $50,000 for the Letcher County Domestic Violence Center
6. $200,000 for the purchase of the former Letcher County Health Department building
7. $50,000 for Letcher County Public Libraries
8. $125,000 for lights in Letcher County Parks
9. $50,000 for the Little Shepherd Amphitheater
10. $375,000 for the Millstone Water Project
11. $250,000 for the Pert Creek/ Cram Creek/Pine Creek Water Project.
The court also voted unanimously to participate with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College’s Whitesburg Campus in a grant for the continuation of drug prevention efforts currently underway, including afterschool programs in every school in the county focusing on lessons about the abuse of prescription drugs, student design of anti-drug billboards and prescription drug bags given to area pharmacies, a partnership with the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department, and seminars held at Senior Citizens Centers on the proper disposal of outdated medicine.
Melissa Sturgill and Eugene Meade of SKECC asked the court to serve as fiscal agent for a new five-year DFC grant for $125,000 to replace the one under which they are currently operating the programs. Sturgill said the grant will require a one-to-one match, toward which they are already working.
David Narramore, representing the Letcher County Tourism Commission, presented a sample of a new brochure to the court to promote tourism efforts in the county. Narramore said the brochures will be printed soon and distributed to tourist sites. Narramore also presented a request for $2,788 in matching funding to qualify for a $10,000 Flex-E Grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission through the Center for Rural Development. The grant will be used to implement Phase II of the commission’s plan for “Developing a Tourism and Creative Economy for Letcher County.” The grant will provide funding for a promotional video of Letcher County, signage and site development , and website design and maintenance. The court voted unanimously to approve the request.
County Surveyor Richard Hall told the court that residents of Madden, Vanover, and Saluden have agreed to participate in the county road inventory, which completes the inventory except for Blueberry Hill and Morgan Lane. County Attorney Bolling told Hall there have been new developments in closing out the county landfill at Millstone and asked for help in obtaining maps and other documents detaining exactly where the property boundaries are.
Hall said that when Beth-Elkhorn gave the property to the county, the deed wasn’t really clear. He said he had asked for help from CONSOL, which purchased most of the property around the landfill from Beth- Elkhorn, with no success. Bolling said the language in the agreement is indistinct and will have to be rewritten, but a more exact idea of the boundaries would be very helpful. Hall said the description of the property is very vague and suggested meeting with TECO representatives to see if they can help clarify it.
In other court business:
• Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto told the court the lights at the Ernest Cook Park baseball field should be turned on by March 31 and suggested the court start now to get funding to light the soccer fields. Barto said the estimate for lighting the soccer fields is $75,000. Judge Ward said the court should make sure the soccer field lights will be added in the state budget.
• Magistrate Fleming asked the court to delay paying the Letcher County Jail’s $6,000 water bill until it can be determined how the bill went from $2,000 to $6,000. Fleming said he had always thought a $2,000 bill was excessive. Judge Ward said the meter at the jail needs to be replaced and that sometimes inmates sabotage the jail by running water continuously.
• Judge Ward told the court he would meet with Codell Construction and Summit Engineering the day following the meeting to discuss the planned Letcher County Recreation Center and said he hopes to schedule a groundbreaking within three weeks.
• Don Amburgy of Little Shepherd Amphitheater told the court he has met with HOMES and its volunteer workers will build seating for the theater. Amburgy said the amphitheater will have assigned seating in its second season. He also said TECO has removed the reversion clause from the deed to the property. The original deed stated that the property should revert to TECO if it ever ceased being used for the specified purpose.
Bank balances for county agencies as of January 15.
• General Fund — $597,254.43
• Road and Bridge Fund — $1,064,022.09
• Jail Fund — $82,051.67
• LGEA Fund — $190,395.50
• Senior Citizens Fund — $2,476.18
• Forestry Fund — $9,266.23
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account — $485,070.28
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account — $95.50