The Jenkins Independent Board of Education has sold the McRoberts Elementary School property and voted to pull the district’s students out of the Letcher County Vocational School and send them to Wise County.
After serving as the center of the McRoberts community for about 100 years, the McRoberts school is now in the hands of a private businessman. The board voted during a closed session at its May meeting last week to accept a handwritten bid of $ 62,519, which the board said was the highest offer submitted for the property.
The bid was signed E. Wright, who was identified as Neon businessman Eb Wright, who owns several salvage yards around the area, including one at Neon Junction and another at Jackhorn.
The Letcher Fiscal Court put any possibility of the county government’s bidding on the property to rest at its May meeting when magistrates voted down a motion to submit a bid on the school. District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming, whose district includes McRoberts, made the motion to bid on the school, but the fiscal court shied away after Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton advised that submitting a bid could place the court in legal jeopardy. In making his recommendation, Hatton determined that Fleming may have acted improperly when he asked the Jenkins board to give the county a chance to bid on the property in hopes it could be used as a replacement for the dilapidated Boone Fork Community Center.
Fleming maintained he had done nothing improper and his attorney Ned Pillersdorf of Prestonsburg agreed and said Fleming had certainly not made any attempt to “rig the bid.” The Jenkins Board agreed that Fleming at last week’s meeting that Fleming had done nothing improper.
Fleming said he had spoken to the board as a private citizen of Jenkins and that his concern as magistrate had been centered on finding a place for the senior citizens who use the Boone Fork Senior Citizens Center to gather, since the building they have been using is set for demolition.
“I tried to help the seniors,” said Fleming. “I had nothing to gain.”
Board Vice Chairman Tracy Goff told Fleming he didn’t think that any of the Jenkins board members had accused him of any wrongdoing. Board Chairman Durward Narramore Jr. said that when he had spoken to Fleming about the building, Fleming had only told him he would like to look at the possibility of acquiring the property. Narramore said Fleming also told the school board he couldn’t do anything without court action.
Narramore also said he had called Letcher Judge/ Executive Jim Ward after the board’s April meeting and told him the board had voted to reject all bids for the McRoberts property, and that the bidding process would be reopened with the county government welcome to place a bid.
“You did nothing wrong,” said Narramore. “And you didn’t ask me to either.”
The board also announced that Jenkins Schools would no longer send Jenkins students to the Letcher County Vocational School to attend class.
Narramore said the Kentucky Department of Education has approved a plan to allow Jenkins students to attend Wise County Vocational School in Wise, Va. He said Wise County offers a much more diverse array of opportunities for vocational training. Narramore said he has also been assured that Jenkins students will be treated equally, which he said has not always been the case with the Letcher County Vocational School. He said Jenkins students had not always had equal access to the most highly sought classes.