A group of Millstone residents attended the August meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court on Monday to tell the court, “anyplace but here” on the issue of locating a steam garbage “cooker” in the community.
The cooker is under study by a committee appointed to seek a solution to the expense of operating and maintaining the Letcher County Sanitation Department. The cooking process is supposed to reduce organic waste to usable briquettes that can be sold as fuel.
Led by citizens Jerry Collins and Doug Napier, the Millstone residents told the court they have already suffered from being the home of the old county landfill and current home of a transfer station where tractor trailers go to pick up garbage and haul it away to a landfill.
“The smoke from the garbage dump killed my neighbor,” said Collins. “I have bad lungs from Vietnam. If you put that cooker up there and it starts to smell it will stop.”
Collins also told the court the trucks that haul the trash from the transfer station to the landfill are overweight and are hauling illegally on the narrow Millstone road. He added that the state road is poorly maintained and lacks guardrails in critical areas.
“The garbage cooker will bring more trucks,” said Collins. “We’ve already had accidents because the state is too sorry to put a guardrail up.”
Collins told the court he is aware the county is losing money on sanitation. He said he lives in Charleston, South Carolina most of the year but still maintains his residence in Millstone as well. He said he pays $30 a month in Charleston and pays by the year in Letcher County, and would be happy to pay an additional fee and absolve the county from liability if the fiscal court would allow sanitation workers to come a short distance onto his property and pick up the trash to keep his wife from having to put it next to the highway.
“I’m willing to pay more to have my garbage picked up on my property,” said Collins. “I don’t want to carry the garbage. My garbage box is six steps off the state road.”
Judge/ Executive Jim Ward asked Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton to explore the possibility of allowing people who feel like Collins to pay extra to have their garbage picked up on their property if they sign a liability waiver.
Collins suggested placing the cooker at the Gateway Industrial Park in Jenkins because of the ease of access from US 23 and the availability of space needed to contain the cooker and the roads to handle the trucks.
Collins also told the court he has taken action himself to slow the trucks down on Millstone.
“I took my Jeep down and escorted them at one mile per hour,” said Collins. “There are places there where two vehicles can’t pass.”
Judge Ward promised to speak to the county drivers about keeping their speeds low on Millstone and said he will also ask the contractors who haul garbage to the landfills to slow their drivers down as well.
“They’re overweight and breaking the law,” said Collins. “And you are co-conspirators.”
Doug Napier told the court he has environmental concerns as well as issues over the narrow and dangerous road. He produced a petition which he said was signed by residents of Millstone. District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson, who represents Millstone on the fiscal court, also signed the document during the meeting. Gibson has voiced skepticism about the viability of the garbage cooker. District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming is also wary of the process. Fleming said he voted against entering into an agreement to use the same technology in 2005.
Napier asked why Green Pac Environmental has only tested the technology on Indian Reservations and in Brazil and Fleming replied, “ Because they can mess over them.” Napier added that he had researched the 2005 permit that Charles Grote of Green Pac said is still viable. Napier said there is no permit on record and that he had spoken to several Kentucky state agencies concerning the matter.
“It was a big thing here for about two months (in 2005),” said Fleming. “Then it just disappeared.”
Napier told the court it should consider that the cooker and the old landfills are placed directly on the Kentucky River watershed. He said environmental offi cials told him there is no way they would allow the cooker to be placed so near to the old landfills because of the presence of methane gas coming up from the decomposition of the garbage below.
Judge Ward said the waste reduction technology is supposed to take place in a self-contained unit where nothing escapes and water is recycled to create steam. Fleming added that if the technology actually works it would be the greatest thing in the world, but said that for some reason it must not have worked in Cincinnati, where a waste reduction facility operated in 2005 before going out of business.
“They said other companies pushed them out,” said Fleming.
A woman in the audience asked what would become of the “rest of the garbage” that couldn’t be cooked and asked where they would sell the briquettes that are supposed to be the salable by-product of the process. The same woman asked the court to check on methane being released from the garbage in the old landfills.
Judge Ward told the audience that separation of recyclables from organics was part of the process and said the company would handle that part but added that the entire thing is currently under study and is not a done deal. Ward emphasized that a committee, composed of himself, District Two Magistrate Terry Adams, District Four Magistrate Keith Adams, and County Attorney Hatton has just begun to explore the possibilities.
Collins told the court Millstone is just a bad location for any more landfills or other garbage-related operation. He said the ideal location would be someplace accessible by large trucks. He also said there is no speed limit on Millstone Road and the default limit of 55 MPH is ridiculous.
“ Nothing has been decided and we will take everything into consideration,” said Ward. “The garbage has to go to a permitted area so the transfer station (in Millstone) has to be in a permitted area.”
“ We don’t want anything like that,” said Napier. “We’re tired of getting dumped on.”
The court voted unanimously in favor of a motion by Judge Ward to ask the Kentucky Department of Highways to conduct an evaluation of Millstone Road for the purpose of setting a lower speed limit.
Property tax rate remains same in county
In other business, the court accepted tax rates from three county agencies and set the county’s own property tax rate at the existing rate with no changes made. The county’s real property rate for the purpose of county taxes will remain at 11 cents per $100 as will personal property. Motor vehicle and watercraft taxes will remain at 13.7 cents per $100. Tax rates for the Letcher County Soil Conservation District will be 1.10 cents across the board. Tax rates for the Letcher County Board of Health will be 8 cents per $100 on real and personal property as well as on motor vehicles. The Letcher County Public Library Board set its tax rates at 8.1 cents per $100 for real property and 10.88 cents for personal property. Tax rates from Letcher County Schools, Jenkins Independent Schools, and the UK Extension Service have not been submitted yet.
Committee to determine festival funding rates
Letcher County Tourism and Convention Committee Chairman David Narramore reported on funding for county festivals. Narramore, a Whitesburg dentist, said the Tourism Commission recommended the court add $1,000 to supplement the original appropriation of $10,000 (from a line item in the Kentucky budget) so all the festivals in the county can be funded at the $1,000 level. In response to a request made at the July meeting, Narramore said the commission compiled a list of festivals which have already been funded at the level of $1,000 each, those events to be funded at that level, and others which will be funded at the level of $750 each, if the additional $1,000 is not feasible.
The following festivals have already been funded at the $1,000 level: The American Chestnut Festival/ Mountain Coal Bluegrass; Ben Caudill Camp/ Thunder on the Mountain; Bike Night; Cowan Creek Music School; Cumberland Mountain Arts (Little Shepherd outdoor drama); Indian Summer Festival ( Cumberland Mountain Arts); Leatherwood Civil War re-enactment; Mountain Heritage Festival; Pine Mountain Craft Co-op; and the Seedtime Festival (Appalshop).
Festivals the committee recommends funding at the $1,000 level: Blackey Days ( Blackey Improvement Committee); Heritage 2K 2011; Isom Days; Jenkins Homecoming Days; Letcher County Kids’ Day; Neon Days and Riverside Festival. Those festivals the committee recommends be funded at the $750 level are the Bluegrass Festival by the Creek; Coal Miners’ Bluegrass Festival (Hemphill); Haymond Homecoming, and the McRoberts Reunion.
Narramore told the court the committee’s funds are already exhausted for the purpose of funding festivals but added that on September 8 at 6 p.m., the committee will meet in the community room at Whitesburg City Hall to implement a vetting process for funding festivals. The process will be based on the number of attendees and number of days an event lasts, the longevity of the event, and if the organization requesting funding has matching funds. A copy of the budget of the organization requesting funding must accompany the request. The meeting will determine guidelines for future funding from the tourism commission. Narramore said there are currently 22 festivals in Letcher County.
Narramore added that Susan Phillips of the Institute of Outdoor Drama at East Carolina State University attended the August 13 presentation of “ The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come” at the Jenkins amphitheater and will submit a critique to the tourism commission and Cumberland Mountain Arts. He added that Bike Night will continue in downtown Whitesburg even though original sponsor Hobo’s Diner has closed.
Magistrate Fleming said the “Little Shepherd” drama has improved a good deal over last year, saying it was as much difference as “daylight and dark.” Fleming also thanked Narramore for work he has done with the amphitheater and said he understands Narramore has spent money out of his own pocket to aid the production.
“The Judge has me on a budget,” said Narramore, laughing. “I don’t work well on a budget.”
In other court business:
• Animal rights activist June Maggard of Eolia approached the court to ask about the progress on building an animal shelter. Maggard was told the land where the center is to be located is in litigation and nothing can be done until the lawsuit is settled.
• District One Magistrate Bobby Howard told the court he has attended meetings with representatives of the Cumberland City Council and Harlan County Fiscal Court and reported that things are moving in the right direction to pipe water from Cumberland to Cumberland River residents in Letcher County.
• County Attorney Hatton advised the court to stay out of a bridge dispute in relation to a matter brought before them by Tommy Smith of Jeremiah. Hatton said the matter is part of a civil lawsuit and the county should not take any action until it is settled.
• Darlene Campbell of the Campbell’s Branch Community Center told the court she is concerned about heating the center this winter. Judge Ward said heaters have been purchased and arrangements are being made to run a natural gas line to the center. Letcher Fire Chief Gary Rogers asked the court to resume Ranger patrols at the center as well.
• The court voted unanimously to approve the second reading of changes made to the Letcher County
Ethics Ordinance. The board will be reduced from nine to five members, and members will be allowed to succeed themselves. Financial reporting requirements will be removed for board members, who receive no compensation and do not handle financial matters.
• Parks and Recreation Director Derek Barto gave a report on the new recreation center in Whitesburg. Barto told the court the building now has circulating air, which will allow for the installation of the floors. He said he will have a complete report at the next meeting.
• The court voted unanimously to set the speed limit at Scrap Shin Branch at 10 MPH and Allen K Hollow at 15 MPH.
The court also voted to name the following roads and bridges in honor of Letcher County Veterans:
• The bridge entering Camden Road at Jenkins in honor of Air Force Tech Sergeant Shaun Damron.
• The Old Dixon Road 2.5 miles below Blackey for PFC Spencer Caudill, U.S. Army World War II.
• The road on Bottom Fork at Mayking on Highway 3406 Laurel Fork for PFC Willard Polly U.S. Army.
• The road to Fishpond Lake from US 119 for PFC James Wesley Tolliver, U.S. Army.
• Highway 3406 at mile point 0 on Bottom Fork for Corporal Carl Polly, U.S. Army.
• The road at the junction of Route 7 and Highway 931 for PFC Pony Bates, U.S. Army.
• KY 160 at mile point 15.376 for Seaman First Class Junior Gentry, U.S. Navy.
• State Highway 15 at Pine Mountain Junction for Sergeant (and current Letcher County Sheriff ) Danny Webb, U.S. Army.
Bank Balances for County agencies as of August 11, 2011
• General Fund — $318,302.97
• Road and Bridge Fund — $845,607.10
• Jail Fund — $284,951.71
• Local Government Economic Assistance Fund ( severance tax) — $1,872,963.46
• Senior Citizens Fund — $66,373.80
• Forestry Fund — $8,970.95
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account — $540,925.20
• Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account — $64,079.35