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Neon council loses member after meeting

The Fleming-Neon City Council is one member short after its February meeting.

Longtime council member and community activist Karen Hall submitted her resignation on Monday, telling Mayor Susan Polis she is selling her home in Fleming and moving to Cromona to be closer to her mother and the family business.

Hall has been active in the council and served on the Neon Days Committee, as well as the Fleming-Neon High School Alumni Association. She was in her fourth term as a council member. Hall said her resignation was immediate and suggested the council find a replacement as soon as possible so they could get up to speed in city matters. Polis said the council will have 30 days to appoint a replacement.

In other business, Billy Smallwood, maintenance supervisor for the Letcher County office of the state Department of Highways, addressed a problem with water from ditches and bad drains which he said affects both city streets and state highways. Smallwood is a former member of the council and he and Fleming-Neon Water Department Superintendent Carlos Phillips examined several ditches and culverts on KY 317 and other areas on the hill behind City Hall.

Smallwood said several drains and culverts are now ineffective and that some repairs need to be made to keep water from running out into Main Street. He said the problem had been magnified during the recent cold weather when the water froze and made the street very dangerous.

Phillips told the council he and Smallwood put dye in one stream of water that bypassed a drain and came out at a retaining wall near Dr. Sam Quillen’s office on Main Street. Smallwood told the council he has filed a request for an “interagency agreement” which would allow state workers and equipment to be used to help with the situation. He said the governor placed a moratorium on such work last year, but he believes his request will be approved because only labor and equipment will be provided by the state. The city will furnish the drains, culvert, and pipeline to complete the work.

Several other water problems on city streets were also discussed during the meeting. Smallwood told the council that several are on state roads and can be fixed by the highway department, but some others would have to be addressed by the city. Smallwood said if the drainage problems could be taken care of it would eliminate much of the water that stands in city streets and along state roads after heavy rains.

Phillips reported that January was a hard month for water department workers. In the utilities report, he told the council that frozen water lines and other problems caused by the intense cold had kept workers busy, sometimes for stretches lasting 24 hours or more. He said one pipe froze and burst, causing a leak averaging 50 gallons per minute on Baxter Avenue. He said the water plant ran at full capacity during the coldest weather in an attempt to keep lines from freezing.

Phillips also told the council that cold weather caused an electrical problem in water booster stations throughout the system and a power failure at the water plant that resulted in a “single phase” condition which burned out the control panel on the sand filters at the sewer plant as well. He said Wayne Sergent is working to repair all the electrical problems and he hopes the filters will be on line soon. He said finding replacement parts for the antiquated filtering system had been an ordeal, but Sergent has located them and will repair the panel as soon as the parts arrive.

Council member Cheryl Furby brought up a recent “boil water advisory” which had been issued during one of the pipe breakages and said the only place she had heard about it at all was on WYMT-TV in Hazard. Council member James D. Collins, who had called the station to issue the advisory, told the council the pipe burst on a weekend and he tried calling every radio station that serves Letcher County. He said the only place where anyone answered the phone was WYMT.

Council member Trey Quillen told the council he had found a rope on a swing for small children at the city’s Kiddy Park to be unsafe and had temporarily disabled the swing by wrapping the other rope around the top part of the standard holding it up until repairs could be made. Quillen showed other members the rope which was frayed and worn out. He said only a couple of thin strands had actually been holding the swing up. Mayor Polis said she would direct city workers to see to the matter immediately, but will also look into getting a better designed swing made for park use.

James D. Collins, who is a member of the Letcher County Parks and Recreation Board, told council he will look at catalogues and find a more suitable swing.

Mayor Polis told the council that a dangerous situation with a road on Swift Street will have to be addressed soon. Polis said the road is broken off and is so narrow that the city’s garbage trucks can’t get across it to pick up garbage from the three homes on the other side. She said she doubts fire trucks or ambulances could get to the homes either. Polis said whatever it takes to fix the road, it will have to be done to provide the taxpayers on the street with city services and make sure they have access to fire and ambulance service.

Asked how the people living above the bad spot on the road get in and out, Cheryl Furby said they have to have small cars because a large car can’t get over the street either.

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