Whitesburg is poised to move a step closer toward becoming a tourism destination as the city government moves to restore the old Daniel Boone Hotel downtown.
Engineer Paul Nesbitt delivered the initial feasibility study on restoring the old hotel to the Whitesburg City Council at its March meeting and told the council members the study envisions 22 rooms, six suites, a 2,200-square-foot ballroom, and a full restaurant.
Nesbitt, who predicted the building will be a success when finished, said the new design is based on the Gratz Park Inn in Lexington and will provide the city with a boutique hotel and a community center that is deeply connected to the county’s history. Nesbitt Engineering is also looking for funding to move the project forward.
In other business, Nesbitt also told the council he had spoken with representatives of the Kentucky Department of Water, who said they are willing to fund an early warning system to allow the city water plant to take emergency measures earlier in the event of another oil spill. He said the system will also require two carbon filters, one for crude oil from possible holding tank spills, and a second for diesel fuel.
Mayor James Wiley Craft told Nesbitt he thinks the system is a good partial solution. Craft also asked about what he referred to as a second solution — moving the city water plant’s intake from the surface of the Kentucky River to the bottom. Craft said the pool where the intake is located is about 20 feet deep, but the depth varies due to the amount of silt in the river and averages around 10 feet this time of year. He said he had it dipped out when he took office and hopes the state will help by dipping it out again.
Nesbitt told the council the DOW is very interested in getting the alarm system installed and working. He said the entire process will probably take about six months, 30 days to bid and 60 to 90 days to install, and should be working within six to 12 months.
Mayor Craft also told the council he wants to make it clear to all that the city had not been issued a Clean Water violation by the DOW, but that the violation had been issued to Veolia Water, which operates the city’s water and sewer works. Todd Adams of Veolia agreed and said the violation had indeed been issued to Veolia.
“I wanted to correct the record,” said Craft. “During the last diesel spill, the violation issued was not issued to the City of Whitesburg. Both the Lexington Herald Leader and The Mountain Eagle carried stories saying it was. It was issued to Veolia and the DOW says they have no intention of issuing it to the city.” (The Eagle article was based on information received in a press release issued by the Kentucky Department of Water.)
Craft also told the council he had asked Adams to prepare a comparison of regional water rates and that Adams’s charts show Whitesburg as having the lowest water rates by a signifi cant margin. Craft said the council should read the report with an eye to the future.
In other business, Kevin Howard of Summitt Engineering reported on progress on water line extensions for the county recreation center and on Solomon Road. Howard said the work was near completion and presented the council with an invoice from project contractor H2O for $44,850.60. Mayor Craft said he has spoken with a number of Solomon residents all the way to the end of the road and they are very pleased with the additional water pressure the new six-inch line provides.
Craft also asked Howard to look at the nursing home road and speak to H2O about repairing damage done to it during construction on the replacement of the Nursing Home Lift Station. Howard said he would speak with the contractors.
In other business:
• The council voted unanimously to approve a resolution of support for the Leslie-Knott-Letcher- Perry Community Action Council (LKLP). Tammie Whitaker of the Whitesburg LKLP office told the council the organization is in danger of having its funding cut drastically and said it would have a serious impact on poor people in the county. Whitaker said the $500,000 LKLP spends on meals goes to local vendors and the $10.2 million payroll is spent locally in the four-county region.
• Clary Estes of River Watch asked the council about the county’s “One Call” notification system during the last diesel spill. She said a number of people did not get the warning.
• Charles Hall, a resident of the Westwood neighborhood, complained about neighbors parking on his side of the street and blocking access to his property. Hall said he does not think a fire truck could negotiate the street he lives on with cars parked on it. He also asked about spots where blacktop has been taken up for construction work. Mayor Craft said the city will address the blacktop situation when blacktop plants open and will look at the parking.
• Craft announced that the annual PRIDE cleanup will be held on April 9 starting at 11 a.m. He said all participants will receive a t-shirt and asked the council to record a proclamation making April 2011 Cleanup Month.
• Craft also welcomed Nurse Practitioner Larissa Hogg Bailey to the Whitesburg business community. Bailey recently opened Mountain Instant Care at Pine Mountain Junction and Craft said the facility can address many health concerns and will help the city grow.
• The council voted unanimously to allow Mayor Craft to enter into negotiations with the Whitesburg Masonic Lodge to sell it a tract of property on the old L&N rail bed for a new lodge. Councilman Jimmy Bates suggested selling the property for $1, but Craft said he will have to look at the law on selling public property for less than its appraised value. Councilman John Williams urged caution in locating the building, citing the possibility of high water during heavy rains.