Ongoing problems with communications for first responders and the installation of a bridge replacement dominated discussion at the August meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court this week.
Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said he had spoken with the contractors for the Perkins Branch Bridge replacement project and was told the new Mabey Compact 200 bridge should be ready for use by Thursday.
District Four Magistrate Keith Adams said he has been to the bridge site and it looks good, although with no center pier, it is definitely different. However, Ward said the center pier on the old bridge had been the source of the problem by splitting the force of the river during high water and forcing it to both banks, creating a washout situation that eventually caused the bridge to collapse. Ward and Adams said they hope to attend a grand opening ceremony for the bridge on Thursday.
Gary Rogers, of the Letcher Fire Department and Ambulance Service, told the court that his office is unable to receive pages from the district 911 center and that it has been forced recently to depend on telephone calls when services are needed. Rogers said that Carry Johnson of Tri-State Electronic, which holds the contract for emergency communications, had picked up the main page box from his department and he has not gotten it back. He also said that a number of pagers in his and other departments have been lost or destroyed and need to be replaced.
Ward said he will look into the matter, but told Rogers that taxes from a landline phone tax implemented to pay for the 911 program do not go to the Kentucky State Police to pay for its equipment. Ward said the tax is designed to fund the 911 program and the biggest financial issue with 911 is that many people have dropped landlines entirely in favor of using cell phones. Rogers said that initially, the county had provided to pagers for each department.
In other business, the court voted unanimously to enter into a lease agreement for two 2019 Mack heavy dump trucks for county use and to turn in the county’s old trucks. Ward said that by using the lease agreement, the county is able to keep new trucks and turn them in at the end of the lease period, when they are sold at auction. The lease payments are based on a total that represents the state contract price for the vehicles, which is substantially lower than market value. He said that in the past, when the trucks are sold at auction, the county usually realizes a decent profit.
The court also voted to name the bridge to Haymond off US 119 on Highway 805 for Private William F. King, who served in Company C756 Armored Tank Battalion during World War II.
The members voted to add the names of Specialist Four Henry “Pete” Kimbley, U.S. Army, Korean War, and Private First-Class Charles H. Nichols, who served in the U.S. Army, to the Memorial Board at Blackey. Magistrate Keith Adams informed Judge Ward that the Blackey Memorial Board is full and will need to be expanded.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked Ward about the courthouse air conditioning system that has its cooling towers on top of the building. Fleming said that not only has the system experienced frequent failures, but it is so loud, it is difficult at times to hold court in the circuit courtroom.
Ward said he is aware of the situation and that the system was probably obsolete when it was installed. Ward said he is looking into options and it will be necessary to replace the entire system. He said the court refinanced the courthouse renovation debt several years ago and may need to do that again if the air conditioning system is replaced. Fleming suggested that with interest rates rising, the fiscal court make a move soon.
Fleming also mentioned regional problems with hepatitis A and said the court needs to do all it can to keep it from spreading in Letcher County. Ward said the Letcher County Health Department, Letcher County Public Schools, and Mountain Comprehensive Health Care have all made efforts to curtail the spread of the disease and provide vaccinations. He added that he believes local pharmacies have also made hepatitis vaccines available.
Bank balances for county agencies as of July 31
• General Fund: $653,410.45
• Road and Bridge Fund: $518,828.03
• Jail Fund: $72,693.41
• LGEA Fund: $850,106.65
• Senior Citizens Fund: $227.61
• Forestry Fund: $20,111.99
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Depreciation Reserve: $17,940.86
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Debt Service: $282,966.23