Letcher County magistrates who seek a partial exemption from the Whitesburg occupational tax were told this week they will probably have to file the necessary paperwork themselves and document the amount of time they spend working in the city in order to qualify.
At the November meeting of the Letcher Fiscal Court, County Attorney Jamie Hatton told the court he had spoken with Whitesburg City Attorney James Asher about whether the magistrates could avoid paying the entire amount in light of their claim that most of their work is not done in the city.
Hatton said Asher, who wrote the tax ordinance, told him the burden for paying the tax falls on the employer, in this case, the fiscal court, and the court can choose to pay for the portion of time it estimates the magistrates spend working in the city limits, or the magistrates can have the full amount taken from their check and then apply for a refund based on the amount of time they say they work outside of Whitesburg.
Hatton said he favors the second option. After the fiscal court makes the first quarterly payment to the City of Whitesburg, each magistrate can individually report a refund and provide the necessary documentation, including proof of what portion of their work was done in the city and what wasn’t done in Whitesburg. Hatton said the second option was the best course for the court because it would protect it from any problems that might arise.
In other business, the court heard from Jarrod Breeding, who came to the meeting to represent Southern Steel Recycling. Breeding told the court he came to clear up any problems or misunderstandings about the business relationship between Southern Steel Recycling and the Letcher County Recycling Center. He said he had always made sure to give the county the best price for the recyclable material purchased from it and that his company has made a sizable investment in containers for the materials, which keep cans and recyclable steel from piling up at the center. Southern Steel Recycling is responsible for providing several jobs and by having scheduled pick-ups, the company provides a regular income to the county through monthly purchases.
Breeding said his company spent about $20,000 on the containers for the steel and cans and that it annually purchases approximately 40 tons of shredded steel and 7,800 pounds of cans. He said he pays the county approximately $ 7,200 for the shredded steel and $ 1,500 for the cans. He added that he is willing to submit a bid if it becomes necessary and will do whatever he can to accommodate the court’s wishes.
Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he would like to see the system opened for bids, maybe on a six-month basis. However, Breeding said he sells scrap metal to several different companies that purchase steel and that it would be difficult to give the county his best price on that basis, since his selling price fluctuates monthly. County Attorney Hatton said that the process of selling surplus county property is not the same as the process for purchasing and that a bid is less important than seeing that the county receives fair market value.
Judge/ Executive Jim Ward said there have been no problems with the county’s business dealings with Southern Steel Recycling and that it has actually benefitted the recycling center since Southern makes regular pick- ups, which not only provides a regular cash flow but also reduces the county’s liability since it keeps it from having excess metal laying around the center. Third District Magistrate Codell Gibson said that if the system is working in the county’s benefit he sees no reason to change it and First District Magistrate Bobby Howard added that while he would prefer a bid system, he does not see any way to do it in a way that would increase the benefit to the county. Magistrate Fleming conceded that he was probably the only one who was for a bid and the matter was left as it is.
The court also voted unanimously to enter into an agreement to support the Kentucky Highlands Corporation in its efforts to apply for a “Promise Zone” Designation for an eight-county area including Letcher County. Tom Beavins of Highlands told the court it will be under no financial or other obligations and the designation will make it possible for the county to receive preference points in applying for federal grants for infrastructure and other improvements.
Beavins said Kentucky Highlands is a non-governmental organization that operates under a 501C4 ( non-profit) designation and uses government funds to make loans to small businesses as part of the Empowerment Zone process. Judge Ward said he had read the proposal and that he particularly liked the priority points for federal grants. In response to questions from several magistrates, Beavins said the county will be under no financial obligation and that the application being made by Kentucky Highlands is in the early stages. He said the county can opt out at a later date if it wishes.
The court heard a report from Whitesburg dentist David Narramore, who serves as chairman of the Letcher County Tourism Commission. Narramore introduced the court to NCCC Team River 7, a group of AmeriCorps workers who have been in Letcher County since October 24 working to clear hiking trails as well as a bicycle trail. They will stay until December 2 and then return to their campus for graduation.
Team Leader Ana Rea of Greenville Tex., introduced the rest of the group, John Cipollo of Connecticut, Bobbie Keller of Mississippi, Corbin Beastrom of Iowa, John Hamburger of Nebraska, and Raymond Smith of Chicago, Ill. Rea said the AmeriCorps Program pays basic expenses and provides each participant with a $5,500 academic award upon completion of the program, which can be used for tuition or the repayment of student loans. She said AmeriCorps is a voluntary program for people between 18 and 24 and it is ideal for recent high school graduates who are still unsure about their plans for the future, but wish to serve in the public interest. Rea said most of the work is physical in nature and added that participants get to travel throughout the country working on community development projects.
The team will hold a cleanup on the North Fork of the Kentucky River on Saturday, November 23. The public is welcome and those wishing to participate should assemble at Wendy’s at 8:45 a.m. The cleanup will last from 9 a.m. through noon. Judge Ward read a proclamation of appreciation for the AmeriCorps workers and said he will see to it that each member gets an individual copy as well.
Narramore also introduced Sherry Sexton, who will serve as development director of the Community Foundation of Letcher County. Sexton said her goal is to build an endowment so that the interest from the endowment body can be used to make grants for public projects. Narramore told the court he recently attended the Kentucky Travel Industry Association meeting in Louisville and that Letcher County had been recognized as a leader in tourism development and for recent advances made in tourism thanks to the support of the fiscal court. He said tourism accounts for $479.3 million annually in the “Daniel Boone Country,” tourism sector where Letcher County is a member. The tourism industry increased by 4.4 percent in 2012, even in the slow economy.
`The “Big Sexy” ATV Ride will be held Wednesday November 20. For further information, contact Steven Burke at 634-9253, or Jessica Brown at 335-0566. The Jenkins Christmas Parade will be held Saturday, December 7, at 5 p.m. Contact Becky Amburgey at 633-4871 or Ked Sanders at 634-0632. The Whitesburg Christmas Parade will be held December 13. For further information, contact Eleanor Caudill at 633-3700 or Martha Watts at 634- 0127. The Tourism Commission is accepting dates for the 2014 schedule of events. Contact David Narramore at email@example.com.
In other business:
• The court voted unanimously to renew the existing elevator service contract for the courthouse and recreation center with DC Elevator Company, with branches in Hazard, Lexington, and Louisville.
• The court voted unanimously to modify the county’s Transient Room Tax (hotel tax), which goes toward funding for tourism, to provide for monthly payment of the tax, and to make the penalty for non-payment the same as the penalties associated with the Whitesburg occupational tax. The amount of the tax will remain the same and the penalty for non-payment will be no less than $25 and as much as 100 percent of the delinquent amount.
• The court voted unanimously to ask the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to transfer property it owns between Pert Creek to the old vocational school into the County Road System to be used as a portion of the Pine Mountain Trail System.
• The court voted unanimously to appoint Magistrate Codell Gibson to serve on the Board of Directors of the Letcher County Health Department. Gibson will fill the seat held by Magistrate Wayne Fleming, who said he will step down from the seat upon completion of the current term.
• The court voted unanimously to approve the Letcher County Water and Sewer District’s 2014 budget, which calls for operating revenues of $1,030,000. Judge Ward said the district has grown to operate in the black for the first time.
• Larry Jones of the Line Fork/Kingdom Come Community Center told the court a celebration with food and music will be held at the center on November 30 beginning at 7 p.m. and the public is invited.
• The annual Blackey Children’s Christmas Celebration will be held at the Blackey Community Center on December 14 at 6 p.m. Music, treats and toys for the children will all be provided at no cost.
• The court voted unanimously to dedicate Valley Branch Road at the Gordon Volunteer Fire Department in memory of Specialist Four Kile Roger Sturgill, U.S. Army.