Gary Mullins has been named to replace the retiring Truman Thompson as chief of the Whitesburg Fire Department.
Mullins, a former council member and longtime volunteer fireman, had been named assistant fire chief last year and was promoted to chief last week at a special-called meeting of the Whitesburg City Council.
Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft said he had polled each member of the city council individually and all were in agreement that Mullins should take over as fire chief.
In other business, the council heard from Sam Adams, who was instrumental in having many of the city’s buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places. Adams appeared before the council to present a proposal by Whitesburg businessman Joel Beverly in hope of saving the KYVA Motor building from a wrecking ball.
Adams told the council that given the need for more space at the Letcher County Veterans Museum, Beverly suggested that the Letcher County Soil Conservation District and the Veterans Museum swap spaces. Adams said the proposal would take care of the Conservation District’s need for a lot to build a new office space while the KYVA provide ample space for the Veterans Museum to expand.
Adams said Beverly had spoken to a local brick mason who said he believes he could repair the structurally-deficient wall of the KYVA building at a relatively low price, and that selling the doublewide trailer that currently houses the museum, along with a number of tax rebates and grants for historical property, would pay for much of the restoration of the KYVA building.
Council member Jimmy Bates, who is a former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he would speak to the committee members at the museum about the swap.
Adams also gave a progress report on the Brownfield grant for cleaning up the old Salyer Radio building (formerly occupied by Comcast cable) and said the state is currently conducting an environmental report on possible contamination at the site. He said the Department of Environmental Protection will drill several holes in the parking lot, where an old service station once stood, and take core samples to look for leakage from fuel tanks.
Council member Robin Bowen Watko asked Mayor Craft who owns the old caboose that sits next to the Veterans Museum, and Craft said he had checked on the matter with former mayor Jimmy Asher, who told him the city owns the caboose. Watko said the caboose is the last reminder of the Whitesburg Railroad Depot and should be preserved.
Craft told the council the pedestrian bridge should be ready by July 4.
Craft praised the monthly "Bike Night" centered around Hobo’s Diner on Main Street. He said bikers have come from several states and from cities all around the region to participate, with many bringing their families. Craft said it was an impressive sight to see motorcycles parked throughout the city, Craft lauded the family atmosphere and said he was proud to welcome area motorcycle riders to Whitesburg.
The council also:
• voted unanimously to pass a resolution allowing the city to accept $17,651 in state road funds for the upkeep of city streets in the incorporated area.
• voted unanimously to pass a resolution authorizing the city to negotiate a loan to purchase a pump/tanker fire truck for the Whitesburg Fire Department. Mayor Craft told the council the city had not been able to negotiate a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency, except for one with a 25/75 rate, which meant the city would have to repay 75 percent of the grant. However, the Letcher County Fiscal Court has agreed to conduct the negotiation for a much more favorable rate and the city will pick up the balance. When the loan is repaid, the truck will become city property.
Craft said having the new fire truck will improve the department’s ability to serve the city and will bring lower insurance rates to buildings and homes within city limits. Craft said the city has $30,000 in the fire fund to pay on the truck. He said by running the grant through the county, the truck will not cost the city any money.