The Letcher County Fiscal Court met on a cold and snowy Monday evening to expedite an ordinance to allow Letcher County to continue to participate in the Federal Flood Insurance Program and to qualify for FEMA aid in the case of a disastrous flood. County Surveyor Richard Hall said that changes in the National Flood Plain Program would require a new ordinance in order for the county to remain in compliance.
Hall told the court that new maps would be published in March that will detail the changes. County Attorney Jamie Hatton added that in light of the changes, the ordinance would have to be in place by March 15. Hatton conducted the first reading of the ordinance at Monday’s meeting.
Hall said that every county has a base flood elevation for flood plain levels in Kentucky, which is set by the state Division of Water. He added that if a property owner wants to know his situation in regard to the flood plain, the DOW would provide the owner with the base flood elevation for that location. Hall said that having that information could affect a property owner’s insurance rates. If the property owner believes the level is incorrect, they can engage a surveyor, an engineer, or an architect to do a closer survey to determine of their property is actually in the flood plain.
Hall told the court that because the grid system, the Kentucky DOW uses 40- foot contours on the map. There is a possibility that someone’s property may not be in the flood plain even though the DOW information states that it is. He said that it is necessary to have a surveyor, engineer, or architect submit a Letter of Map Amendment and provide certification of a survey showing that the property is different from the DOW’s designation in order to get it changed. Hall said the change could save a property owner a significant amount of money.
“Your rate is determined by your position relative to the flood plain,” said Hall.
District Three Magistrate Woody Holbrook told the court that when he applied for flood insurance for his service station, he was told it was in the flood plain even though it sat next door to his father’s house, which was not listed as being in the flood plain. He said it was because of the leeway the 40-foot contour creates and he had to hire a professional to have his property re-certified.
The court voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance to accept the changes in the National Flood Plain Program. Ward also appointed Hall to be the Flood Plain Coordinator for Letcher County.
In other business, Ward told the court that he has been talking with officials at the Kentucky River Animal Shelter who tell him they are planning to renew the lease on the shelter’s current site at the Hazard Industrial Park, and have offered Letcher County an option of participation with the four-county shelter for at least 25 years or more if the court desires. Ward said the $400,000 the shelter already has is actually from multi-county coal severance tax funding that was applied for jointly by the four counties and it will be used to remodel the current structure to expand it and bring it up to state code.
Magistrate Holbrook moved that the court file a request with the General Assembly to allow the $300,000 in coal severance tax funds that had been set aside for a shelter in Letcher County be re-designated so it can be put into the county road department, senior citizens, and sanitation. The motion passed by a unanimous vote.
The court also voted unanimously to decline to fund any trail development that has to be accomplished at the expense of condemning private property. During the Tourism Commission Report, District Five Magistrate Wayne Fleming asked Letcher County Tourism Chairman David Narramore if it was true that some of the trail groups have suggested the possibility of condemnation to allow a trail to cross property the property owner does not want crossed. Narramore replied that the possibility is on the table, although the Tourism Commission supports negotiating easements rather than condemnation.
Narramore told the court that the main problem for most property owners that object to a trail crossing their property is where it crosses. He said that nobody wants strangers hiking right in front of their homes and that those property owners who have objected to an easement have mostly been concerned about the location of the trail in relation to their property. Narramore added that property owners who agree to an easement would be exempt from liability issues on their property under state law.
County Attorney Hatton, who is negotiating the easements, said that condemnation is just one tool he can use, but said it should not be taken off the table. Hatton said that in any case, the court would have to direct him to proceed with a condemnation on any property and it would be a last resort. However, Fleming’s motion stated that the court would not support any property condemnation for trail use.
Narramore also said that information concerning the proposed new entryway into Whitesburg will be provided at an upcoming Transportation Cabinet presentation to be held at a future date at the Letcher County Extension Office, and that it will be the only reliable source of information concerning the DOT’s plan. Narramore said that rumors that buildings will be torn down and businesses will be lost are not true and he reminded the court that the buildings around the site are on the National Register of Historic Places and cannot be removed. The meeting had been scheduled for February 19, but was postponed because of the winter storm.
The court also voted unanimously to seek estimates for upgrades on the “smoke evacuation system” for the jail and courthouse. Letcher County Jailer Don McCall told the court that the system that now serves the courthouse, including the jail, does not work anymore and that the building is not in compliance with Department of Corrections directives. McCall said he has had made several attempts to get the system repaired but was told by Koorsen Fire and Safety of Lexington that the current system was already obsolete when it was installed in 1997 and cannot be repaired. The projected cost to replace the system is $22,667 and McCall said that the attempts to repair the system have already cost around $15,000. The court voted to advertise for bids to replace the system.
In other business:
• The court voted unanimously to approve a resolution allowing for the use of county Rights of Way for contractors on the Craft’s Colly Sewer Project and to turn the lines over to the City of Whitesburg when the project is complete.
• The court voted unanimously to designate the week of February 23 as University of Kentucky Sesquicentennial Week to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the University of Kentucky as the state’s flagship land grant university.
• The court voted to dedicate Highway 931 South at the junction of 931 and Highway 160 for Major General Dorothy A. Hogg and Master Sergeant Jeffery Hogg, United States Air Force.
• The court voted in executive session to discharge Animal Control Offi cer Brandon Collier, who was arrested recently on a charge of driving while under the influence.
• The court voted unanimously to appoint former District Three Magistrate Codell Gibson as a member of the Letcher County Road Commission, which determines if a road can be adopted into the county road system.
• The court gave Ward permission to bid on a John Deere mower and a 1998 Ford sanitation truck to be used as a backup. Ward will visit an equipment auction in Alabama to look at the vehicles.