Taxpayers in the City of Whitesburg will see their city taxes decline by two cents per $100 in the next taxing year, providing the ordinance that lowers the rate is passed on its second reading.
At the September meeting of the Whitesburg City Council, Mayor James Wiley Craft conducted the first reading of Ordinance 2014-06, which lowers taxes on all property, real and personal, as well as taxable bank notes, from $.37 per $100 to $.35 per $100.
Craft said he would like to be able to lower the rate even further and hopes to do so in the coming years, but added, “It’s a good start.” Because it was the first reading of the ordinance, the council took no action. Upon the second reading and the approval of the council at their next meeting, the lowered rate will become law.
Craft also addressed the city’s ongoing audits and said that Hazard accountant Chris Gooch is nearly finished with the audit for 2009. Craft said he has spoken to Gooch, and he has agreed to conduct the 2014 audit next and then work backwards from 2013 to 2010. Craft said the city’s financial issues had prevented them from being able to conduct the audits for several years, but he intends to keep them current in the future. The mayor suggested that anyone with any questions concerning the audits contact Chris Gooch at 606-436-5700.
“We are going to get these up to date,” said Craft. “We haven’t been financially able to until lately.”
Craft also told the council that he understands there have been rumors concerning the transparency of the city’s accounting. He said the city’s books are available for inspection by the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In a related matter, Craft said there is no truth to a rumor that the council plans to raise the city’s current occupational tax to three percent. He said that is simply not true and there have been no discussions to raise the tax.
“No such action is planned by this council,” said Craft. “As long as I am in this chair, no such action will take place.”
In other business, Lee Anne Mullins of the Mountain Heritage Festival Committee informed the council that the Mountain Heritage Festival has been named as one of the Top Ten Festivals in Kentucky for 2014. Mullins gave the news when she asked the council to provide its customary level of cooperation with the committee, including providing sanitation, police and fire protection, parking, and all the other measures the city takes to make the festival a success. She said the city has played a big role in the festival’s success and the recognition the festival received from the state.
Mullins did ask the council to work with the festival committee to make sure the entrance ramp into the city is kept clear so that emergency vehicles have access to the festival from Route 15 and access to residents of Michigan Avenue as well. She said the committee tries to keep the ramp clear every year, but that many people who attend the festival ignore the signs and traffic cones that are placed there, and park in the middle of the ramp, effectively blocking access. She suggested that city police officers ticket vehicles parking on the ramp.
Craft thanked Mullins and the festival committee for its hard work and the long hours its members put in as volunteers to make the festival a success and said that the illegal parking on the ramp is the only complaint his office usually receives during the festival period. He said that if people continue to ignore the signs and break the law by parking on the ramp, it may be necessary to tow vehicles that block access by emergency vehicles.
Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill told the council there have been relatively few maintenance issues with the water and sewer systems this month, but added that a drive motor went down on the clarifi er at the sewer plant and it will cost approximately $1,000 to repair the1/2-horsepower motor. A heater motor also went down on the wastewater plant and will have to be repaired. Caudill said he is getting estimates for the work. He also asked to be allowed to rebuild the pumps at the transfer station near West Whitesburg Elementary School. Caudill said he would like to do the work while the station is still operational and before the pumps fail. He added that the water pipe across the Kentucky River at Craft’s Colly Railroad Bridge is still holding.
Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, who is working with the city on water and sewer issues, said he is still seeking funding for a laundry list of projects he and Caudill have identified and asked the council to give Craft permission to sign various applications to obtain funding. He said the council will still have to approve the receipt of any grants or other funds that are offered to the city and this just means Craft can sign applications when they are presented. The council approved the request.
Councilman Tom Sexton praised Caudill for taking good care of a group of AmeriCorps Volunteers who were in the city last week and said he did a “great job with the kids.” Sexton also introduced Louise Vasher, who is working in Whitesburg on the SOAR ( Save Our Appalachian Region) project. Vasher said she is pleased to be in Whitesburg and looks forward to working in the city.
In other council business:
• Craft asked the council to table discussions on leasing the old KYVA Motor building until later when the matter is more clear. He said he may present the issue at a later time, depending on circumstances.
• The council approved three fundraising roadblocks, two for Santa’s Truck Train, for October 11 and November 8, and one for the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter for November 1.
— By WILLIAM FARLEY