If Congress can’t reach a budget deal in time to stop steep spending cuts, some Letcher County senior citizens centers could be closed or consolidated with other centers.
Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) Director Mike Miller told the Letcher Fiscal Court on Monday that if Congress fails to avert going over the “fiscal cliff,” KRADD stands to lose as much as $280,000 in federal funding in the second half of the current fiscal year. He said that could cause Letcher County to lose as much as $24,000 in funds earmarked for senior citizens services.
The fiscal cliff is a term used for bi-partisan tax hikes and cuts in military and social spending that will be automatically implemented if Congress fails to achieve a budget that reduces the deficit under the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Miller said if the cuts are implemented, federal agencies will likely stop funding senior citizens centers that serve fewer than 20 seniors a day. He said regulators are already going as far as examining signatures at the centers to make sure numbers aren’t being exaggerated. Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said if some of the smaller centers lose their funding, it may be necessary to combine centers that are close enough in proximity to keep their meal service at an acceptable number. Miller added that cuts to centers serving fewer than 20 clients a day are likely even if the fiscal cliff is averted.
District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming said he does not believe that a loss of $24,000 in funding should be considered enough to merit closing a senior citizens center and the jobs that go with it. But Ward said that general revenues from state funding are down throughout the county and that coal severance tax receipts were down by $180,000 in the last quarter. Ward said it might be necessary to combine a few centers in order to save the whole program. Ward added that workers displaced by closing one center could be absorbed at others currently understaffed. District Two Magistrate Terry Adams noted that while a center may be closed, there would be no disruption in meals delivered to the homes of seniors.
In other business, Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) representative Bridget Back announced that EKCEP has applied for $5 million in initial grant funding from federal agencies for the purpose or retraining coal miners who have lost their jobs, as well as training the spouses of displaced miners. Back said the program called “Hire Our Miners Everyday” (HOME) will be launched to supplement the career advising and job search assistance programs that are always available through EKCEP.
HOME will allow EKCEP, through its Kentucky Career Center JobSight network and key state and community partners, to place eligible coal miners who lost their jobs in 2012 into skilled jobs or training opportunities that will lead to new jobs. The program will provide the same benefits to spouses of laid off miners.
Eligible miners will be served through on the job training (OJT), classroom training for basic academic skills, certification and licensing training, skilled apprenticeships, and other services. Back said miners should contact their local LKLP Office for further information.
The court also voted unanimously to sign a contract with KRADD to provide administrative services for the Deane Water Project – Millcreek Section. At the November 15 meeting of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering, who works with the district on water projects throughout the county, told the Board of Directors that Kentucky Infrastructure Authority has released the funds to complete the work and asked the board to authorize advertising for bids. The board approved his request and Caudill said the bid opening will be scheduled for December 11 and he expects work to begin soon after the bids are approved.
The court also approved a contract with KRADD to provide administrative services for the second phase of the Letcher County Highway 160/Premium waterline extension project, which has been approved by the water and sewer district as well.
KRADD director Miller delivered to the court the results of engineering proposals for the Craft’s Colly Sewer Line Extension Project. Two engineering companies submitted proposals. Summit Engineering of Pikeville received the high score of 299. Bell Engineering of Lexington, which has handled the majority of local water projects, received a score of 261. Based on the scores, Miller said a committee composed of county water superintendent Mark Lewis, City of Whitesburg maintenance director Chris Caudill, and County Judge Pro-Tem Eddie Meade recommended awarding the contract to Summit. The court voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation.
Ward explained that the Craft’s Colly Project had originally been a project of the City of Whitesburg designed to reduce water treatment costs associated with the high number of straight pipes along Craft’s Colly Creek. However, the city was unable to obtain the funding to do the work. Ward said the county was eligible for grants the city could not get so the project will now be operated through the Letcher County Water and Sewer District.
In other business:
• Letcher County Tourism Commission Chairman David Narramore reported that the ARTWALK will be held Friday, December 14 from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. in downtown Whitesburg.
• The court passed a resolution to allow for the purchase of property for a site for a water tank to serve the Cumberland River area.
• The court discussed a state regulation concerning contracting with electrical inspectors for home and commercial service. County Attorney Jamie Hatton told the court state regulations are not firmly set. He said he expects to get several issues clarified in time for the court to hold a special meeting to adopt the regulation before the deadline of December 7.
• The court unanimously passed a resolution allowing “participating county agencies” and the Letcher County Sheriff ’s Department to participate with UNITE to prevent drug abuse.
• The court voted unanimously to dedicate Bill Walters Branch in Isom in honor of Corporal Don K. Pridemore; to dedicate Cornett’s Branch off 1103 in honor of Private First Class Fess Polly; and to dedicate the bridge at the end of the state maintained road four miles on Craft’s Colly, County Side, in honor of Private First Class John E.F. Holbrook.