The new Letcher County Fiscal Court will begin 2019 with higher costs, after the outgoing fiscal court voted to give an across-the-board $2 per hour raise to county employees, increase the salary paid to coroner’s assistants, pick up expenses for constables, and resume paying retirement and health insurance premiums for the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department.
Judge/Executive Jim Ward also donated one of the three county Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs to the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department and outgoing Fourth District Magistrate Keith Adams suggested giving the other two to the Letcher County Coroner’s Department. When Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked if fiscal court members weren’t leaving a Tahoe for incoming Judge/Executive Terry Adams (current Second District Magistrate), Ward said Adams had told him he planned to use his own vehicle and Adams confirmed it, saying he did not think the public should fund a vehicle for the judge/ executive.
Adams, who won the November election against Ward, is the only member of the court returning. Every other magistrate is either retiring or lost in the election.
Adams, who will have to balance the budget with the additional expenditures, said very little about them except to ask that motions to spend county funds be tabled until the new court takes office. He was voted down on each motion. However, near the end of the meeting, when several magistrates made motions to increase other spending, he finally asked, “Is there any more money you want to spend?” He received loud applause from the back of the courtroom where the majority of the audience sat.
Ward made the first spending suggestion when incoming Sheriff Mickey Stines presented his 2019 budget. Stines’s budget features anticipated receipts (including the beginning balance) of $645,350.00 against projected expenditures of $645,210.00 (leaving a balance of $140). The budget includes salaries for deputies and assistants of $397,860.00 Stines said he wants to maintain a full staff.
Ward suggested that the county resume paying the department’s retirement and health insurance. The court had traditionally paid the department’s retirement and insurance and included it in the operating budget, but cuts in coal severance funding forced it to drop those expenses two years ago. Ward said that the county’s budget has stabilized recently and he felt the county could handle the additional expense.
Adams moved that the court table the motion but it died for lack of a second. Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he supported Ward because he felt that public safety is extremely important and also cited the new stability in the county budget.
Near the end of the meeting, as each outgoing magistrate was making his farewell, Third District Magistrate Woody Holbrook praised county workers and made a motion for a $2 across the board raise. Holbrook said the county workers had worked hard in sometimes bad weather and hadn’t had a raise in several years. Keith Adams seconded, and the motion passed five to one with Terry Adams voting no.
Keith Adams then asked for a salary of $300 a month each for the two assistant coroners who help Letcher County Coroner Renee Campbell in her duties. He also asked that a Tahoe be set aside for their use.
Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming said that he felt that the constables in each district should be reimbursed for their operating expenses as well.
Both motions passed five to one with Adams voting no. Keith Adams also asked that the court begin paying the power bills for the three community centers still under county ownership. The court voted to pay for electric bills for the centers at Carcassonne, Blackey, and Hemphill.
In other business, the court took annual bids for operating material and services. There were fewer bidders and fewer bids this year and, in several categories, there were no bids or just a single bidder. There were no bids for motor vehicle fuel or lubricants, no bids for HVAC, and none for supplying concrete. Mountain Aggregates submitted the sole bid for crushed limestone and Mountain Enterprises submitted the only bid for blacktop. Letcher County contractor Greg Hale LLC submitted the only bids for electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, and concrete work. Each bid was for $30 per hour labor.
Action Auto received the bid for culverts, although members of the court said Consolidated Pipe had an attractive price. The court rejected it because Consolidated Pipe is located in Martin County and the court felt that proximity could be crucial in replacing culverts, and the distance might offset any price advantage. Both Action Auto and Mountain Aggregate priced their bids according to the size of culverts and gravel.
County Court Clerk Winston Meade presented the court with a check for $10,610 to close out his settlement of excess fees for 2017. He also submitted his 2019 budget for estimated total disbursements of $5,696,530.28 against total receipts of $5,699,750.00. This leaves a projected balance for excess fees of $3,219.72. Meade’s budget for 2019 includes salaries for deputies, assistants and other employees of $572,576.28. The court approved the budget unanimously.
Glenna Pennell of the Autism Support Group thanked the court for its support for Autism Awareness and for its help with the sensory park for special needs children in Whitesburg. Pennell also presented Judge Ward with framed photographs of several Autism Support events.
The court presented several certificates of appreciation. Judge Ward presented Buddy Grubb, who helps manage the Letcher County Veteran’s Museum, with a proclamation for his work with the museum. Darrell Holbrook, who works with Grubb, also received a proclamation but did not attend the meeting. The court transferred management of the Coal Miners Monument at Hemphill to the Hemphill Community Center.
Ward presented a plaque to Wayne Fleming to commemorate his 20 years of service as a magistrate. Fleming thanked the court and everyone in the Fifth District who had supported him. Outgoing magistrates Woody Holbrook, Bobby Howard (First District), and Keith Adams also received plaques. Terry Adams, who will remain on the court as judge/executive, did not receive a plaque.
Courtney Baker, who has served the court as clerk and takes notes for the minutes of every meeting, thanked the court members for her position and said she will miss working with them. Baker also works in the sanitation office. County Treasurer Doris Jean Frazier and Finance Officer Virginia Williams (Frazier’s sister) did not attend the meeting because of a death in their family. Ward said that the treasurer’s report, transfers, and paying the bills will be taken care of at a special called meeting before the end of the year.