Whitesburg KY

Pound mayor apologizes after Letcher residents threaten to boycott town

The mayor of Pound is apologizing after his observation about traffic fines helping to pay for a needed police vehicle drew outrage in Kentucky and threats to boycott businesses in town, Wise County and Virginia.

“Traffic fines are a form of revenue, but I wrongly singled out Kentucky as a targeted contributor,” Mayor and interim Town Manager George Dean said in a statement released Monday. “I do apologize to the State of Kentucky, especially the residents of eastern Kentucky.”

Pound police also have been trying to clarify their traffic enforcement policy since a Coalfield Progress story last Tuesday reported the police car and funding discussions at recent town council meetings.

Threats of boycotts and accusations of profiling Kentucky drivers filled social media all of last week. Kentucky television stations Pine Mountain to interview residents and business people who stressed the value of shoppers who cross the state line.

“I apologize to all the business owners in the Pound and earnestly hope that I have not done irreparable damage to any of you. We want everyone to visit and shop in the Pound,” said Dean, who was out of town last week on some planned time off.

He apologized to the police department and also to residents for saying “something offensive that put the whole town in a bad light.”

Chief of Police Tony Baker issued a statement Thursday saying the department has not and does not “target any driver or any particular geographical region.”

“We believe we have a very good working relationship with our close neighbors in Kentucky and want it to remain that way,” Baker said. “In fact, we are currently collaborating with Kentucky to bring recreational tourism to our region.”

Baker and police Maj. Chris Strange spoke of their duties to protect and keep safe the people of Pound and the people traveling through the town.

Baker said Pound has multiple intersections along U.S. 23, most are not controlled by traffic lights and these especially do not have extensive lines of sight. These are particularly dangerous when motorists are traveling at excessive speeds, he said.

After a February 2015 fatality at the U.S. 23/North Fork intersection, the town sought a signal study there. Coming up from Almira at the foot of the mountain, there is a blind approach to the North Fork intersection.

Yes, Strange said, officers work radar on U.S. 23 in the town limits but radar “detects farther away than you can see a tag . . . we don’t know where it’s from.”

When a motorist travels far in excess of the posted speed limit it dramatically increases the likelihood of a serious injury and/or fatality, Baker said, adding that it is department policy to not issue a citation unless a driver “is dangerously exceeding the posted speed limit.”

Baker estimated that 99 percent of speeding tickets issued in Pound are for speeds of 15 miles per hour or more above the posted limit.

Jenay Tate is editor and publisher of The Coalfield Progress in Norton, Virginia, where this report originally appeared on May 2.

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