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Whitesburg gets new council member, assistant chief




The City of Whitesburg has a new city council member and a new deputy fire chief.

At its July meeting last week, the Whitesburg City Council voted unanimously to appoint Sheila Shortt to fill the remainder of Gary Mullins’s two-year term. Mullins resigned recently to accept the position of deputy fire chief.

The council took the action after Mayor James Wiley Craft read a letter of resignation from Mullins. Craft praised Mullins’s service to the city both as a member of the city council and as a volunteer firefighter, and said he will miss Mullins on the council.

“He has made a tremendous difference in Whitesburg,” said Craft. “I’m sorry to lose your service. You have been a tremendous asset to the council and to the city.”

Mullins is now the assistant to Fire Chief Truman Thompson.

In other business, the council voted to bill restaurants without proper grease traps for repairs to pumps and to lift stations, which are necessary because of grease contaminating city sewers.

In his water and sewer report, Jeff Kilgore of Veolia Water told the council that at least two restaurants at Ermine do not have grease traps of the type required by city ordinance. Kilgore said one does have an under-sink container for cooking oil but nothing to take the grease from dishes and pots out of the dishwater. Kilgore also said the trap at a third Ermine restaurant is too small and needs to be cleaned more often.

Kilgore told the council that pumps are regularly burned up after being clogged by grease in sewer lines and either have to be replaced or rebuilt. He said it costs the citizens of Whitesburg between $1,700 and $3,000 to rebuild or replace pumps, depending on the degree of damage and the cost of having pumping stations pumped out by septic services is considerable.

“You’re spending a lot of money on grease,” said Kilgore. “You just spent $300 to pump out two lift stations and $300-$450 at the Wal-Mart Station.” (Wal- Mart does not serve food and the proximity of the pump station is the reason it is referred to as the Wal-Mart station.)

Kilgore also told the council the city water plant is producing about 20 percent more water because of increased use by newlyadded county water customers. He said Veolia workers have replaced one raw water pump at the water plant and several breaks in water lines have been found and repaired.

City Clerk Garnett Sexton told the council she had sent out letters telling restaurant owners the city would add a surcharge for pump repairs if they continue to flaunt the law, and council member Robin Watco moved to add the surcharge to restaurants which have inadequate grease traps or none at all.

Council member Perry Fowler said it would be hard to define “inadequate” so the motion was modified to read that businesses which have “refused or failed to obtain grease traps, the cost of cleaning them out will be added to the customer’s bill.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the amended motion, and Craft said the city will add the cost of repairs to the bills of the offending business owners.

Kevin Howard of Summit Engineering told the council that bids for the city/county wastewater plant will be opened July 18 and so far participation is good with five contractors putting in bids for the sewer plant and seven for laying sewer lines. He also said the Letcher County Water and Sewer District conducted a survey on a potential secondary water source for the city at Kingscreek but the distance of 22,500 feet and high iron content in the water made it too expensive. He said if the aquifer could be accessed closer to the treatment plant it would be less expensive.

Howard told the council that as soon as bids are read and one is approved, there will be a 90- day hold because of the large number of funding sources and actual construction will begin in October. He said the hold will take the full 90 days in order to satisfy regulations from a variety of funders including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Community Block Grant Development, the Kentucky Department of Water, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Division of Rural Water.

“We’re at the mercy of the speed of the regulatory agencies but it will be within 90 days. It will be no later than October 26. It’s a 365-day contract so it should be finished by November 1, 2008,” said Howard.

The council also:

• Voted to approve the second reading of Ordinance 2007- 6, the city tax assessment which sets the property tax for Whitesburg at $.34 per $100. Mayor Craft asked citizens to remember that the council did not raise taxes and that tax rates have remained unchanged for a number of years.

• Voted to approve the second reading of Ordinance 2004-A which amends the Alcoholic Beverage Control ordinance to call for monthly instead of quarterly reports from businesses serving alcohol in the city. Mayor Craft told the council that as revisions to the ABC plan come about they will be added in succession as B, C, D, etc.

• Voted to approve the second reading of Ordinance 2007- 8, an amendment to the occupational license ordinance which increases the occupational license fee from $187.50 to $300 for wholesale houses or stores inside the city, selling and delivering by trucks in city, or trucks delivering or distributing goods within city limits.

• Voted to approve Ordinance 2007- 4B, which deletes a section calling for the city ABC administrator to require inspection of businesses applying for a liquor license by city officials. Mayor Craft said the same inspections are required and conducted by state officials and there is no reason for the city to bear the expense of conducting the inspections.

• Learned that Ben “Buster” Taylor has requested a written agreement which allows for the use of city property for the Veterans Memorial Park, site of the Letcher County Veterans Museum. Mayor Craft said an informal agreement is currently in place and Taylor has asked for something more permanent. The matter will appear on the agenda for the August meeting.

• Learned that the change in cable television service from Comcast to TV Service of Hindman would take place within a few days. Mayor Craft said delays were the result of contract negotiations between TVS and Comcast and that “dealing with a company the size of Comcast is like trying to push a rope uphill.”

• Approved a request by Leann Mullins of the Mountain Heritage Festival Committee for city cooperation with the Mountain Heritage Festival which will be held September 24-30, the 25th anniversary of the festival.

• Heard complaints from businesses and residents of Caudilltown that city Dumpsters behind the Parkway Plaza Loop Shopping Center were being used by county residents for dumping large items such as appliances and furniture.

• Received an invitation from R.F. Kiser of the Letcher County Airport Board to attend a public meting concerning the development of a proposed airport in Letcher County. The meeting will be held July 23 in Whitesburg at Pine Mountain Grill. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Kiser told the council that engineers will attend to answer any questions and said the possible number of sites has been reduced to three. Kiser also asked if the council would consider deeding property given to the city by South East Coal Company years ago for the development of an airport, if that site is selected.


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