Whitesburg KY
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Petition asks court to let businesses set smoking rules

The Letcher County Fiscal Court was presented with a petition this week signed by citizens who want to challenge the “no smoking” ordinance adopted in April 2006.

The ordinance now bans smoking in all public buildings in Letcher County. The petition, presented by Whitesburg resident Elbert Lee, wants the ordinance modified to allow individual business owners to determine whether smoking will be allowed in their place of business.

After the court accepted the petitions during its October meeting Monday night, Judge/Executive Jim Ward told Lee the matter would be taken under advisement.

The court took time out from its regular agenda to honor four Letcher County members of the 149th National Guard Infantry, known as the “Mountain Warriors,” who returned home recently from a long tour of duty in Iraq.

Judge Ward presented certificates of appreciation to Specialists Kelly Sexton and Michael Combs, who are brothers from Little Dry Fork, and to Corporal Josh Webb of Payne Gap. Lieutenant Brant Pennington of Whitesburg was in Lexington and unable to attend the meeting. However, Pennington’s father David accepted the certificate on his behalf. Ward said the court will honor other soldiers as they return.

In other business, the court introduced Greg Pridemore, formerly of the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD), as the new director of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.

Pridemore told the court he and Ward attended a meeting last week in Frankfort with representatives of five different agencies to present the county’s plan to bring public water to every community in Letcher County as soon as possible.

“We tried to explain our urgency to move as quickly as possible,” said Pridemore. “The seeds have been planted.”

Pridemore said in light of current drought conditions he told officials in Frankfort that the question of building new water lines in Letcher County is no longer one of water quality, but that a number of residents have no water at all. He said the fiscal court and the Water and Sewer District Board of Directors will meet soon to develop a master plan to present to state officials.

District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked about the possibility of extending the Jenkins water system to serve Payne Gap. Pridemore said the project is a high priority.

The court also heard a report from Jeanette Ladd of the Letcher County Planning Commission. Ladd introduced Benny Hamilton, assistant director of KRADD, who she said has been working with the planning commission to attempt to locate a federal prison in the county.

Hamilton told the court the commission has received a planning grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in Atlanta which will require a 50-50 match from the county. The court previously voted to allocate funds to match the grant and Hamilton said the exact amount should be known by the November meeting. He said that a good deal of the preparatory work done by the county may be able to count as in-kind match so the exact amount of cash match will be determined later.

Ward said he believes the possibility of locating the prison here is one of the better economic development opportunities available to the county and that he wants to be prepared in every way if the decision is favorable. He said the need for new housing for potential prison employees is an issue the county must address. Hamilton said representatives of the federal Bureau of Prisons told him that some counties don’t identify local housing and eventually lose potential new residents to other areas. He said the county will be eligible for a separate planning grant to perform a market analysis on available housing as well as possibilities for new housing to address the issue.

Ward told the court that delinquent garbage bills will not be going out with tax bills this year. He said county workers have not been able to access the billing software necessary to combine the two, and that software designer Will Harrick of Campton said he would “unlock” the program for 10 percent of the total owed. Ward said that would probably amount to more than the county will take in on the delinquent bills.

The court voted unanimously to authorize County Attorney Harold Bolling look into who owns the rights to the software and what information the county owns. Bolling said the issue is very complex and suggested the court look at the possibility of getting a new procedure to do the billing.

The court also voted unanimously to hire Gale Dean Campbell to work part time as a litter warden. Campbell already works part time as a deputy sheriff and has arrest powers. Ward said Campbell will still patrol, but will also serve summonses on people who violate the litter ordinance.

“We want everybody to know that if we write you a summons you will be tried,” said Second District Magistrate Archie Banks. “We intend to stop this.”

In response to a question from nurses participating in the Kentucky Nursing Association’s strike against Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Ward said 10599 compare&save.ai 10/11/there has been no joint decision reached among the fiscal courts in Letcher County, Perry County, and Harlan County as to whether to withhold severance tax funds from ARH.

Magistrate Fleming told the nurses he doesn’t expect that ARH will get the money soon. Fleming said the court still supports the nurses and questioned a letter written by ARH President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Haynes which appeared in an advertisement in last week’s edition of The Mountain Eagle. Fleming said it was difficult to determine the intent of the letter.

“I don’t know where they were coming from,” said Fleming. “All we asked them to do is not to treat their employees like dirt. We support you all and that hasn’t changed.”

In other business:

• The court voted unanimously to purchase new financial software. Finance Officer Doris Jean Frazier told the court the current software isn’t compatible with state software and makes it impossible to electronically transmit quarterly reports. She said the state has mandated that quarterly reports be transmitted electronically and that starting next year, budgets must be transmitted electronically as well. Frazier said the new software is designed by a woman who served as county treasurer in Lewis County for 21 years. It costs $6,000 with annual upgrades, including any new versions for $750 per year.

• County Attorney Bolling told the court he had asked state officials for an opinion concerning whether counties are required to bid groceries for the county jail. Bolling said state law does not require bidding on perishable groceries, but the county can bid them if it desires.

• The court appointed Doris Adams of Blackey and Lee Michael Caudill of Whitesburg to the Letcher County Tourism Commission.

• The court conducted the first reading of an ordinance to set the speed limits on Goose Creek Road and Racetrack Hollow at 15 miles per hour.

In reports from county departments:

• 911 Director Brandon Conley reported repairing and reprogramming pagers for county fire departments, making new 911 signs for several county roads and replacing others, and discussing Rescue Markers for Senior Citizens with Senior Citizens Director Trenda Kincer. The markers are to locate seniors in homes for rescue workers and other first responders. Conley also issued a press release to county newspapers and radio stations concerning 911 addresses and GPS coordinates.

• Letcher County Economic Development Director Joe DePriest reported attending meetings with the Letcher County Planning Commission concerning the prison project, attending the AIA Board meeting, meeting with representatives of Drill Steel Services, which recently purchased a lot at Gateway Industrial Park, and meeting with the Letcher County Chamber of Commerce. DePriest also met with Drew Dennis of the Education Cabinet, met with Millstone Construction, and chaired a meeting of the Letcher County Airport Board.

Bank balances as of October 12, 2007 were:

General Fund – $124,519

Road and Bridge Fund – $1,657,408

Jail Fund – $104,560.

LGEA Fund – $643,754

Senior Citizens Fund – $52,498

Forestry Fund – $3,213

Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Funded Depreciation Reserve Account – $402,576

Letcher County Public Courthouse Corp. Debt Service Account

– $64,454

Letcher County Abandoned 07 8:58:07 AM

Mine Lands Fund – $20,160.

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