Whitesburg will have added a total of 112 new jobs by the time the new Taco Bell opens this fall, bringing with it 45 full- or part-time jobs. Taco Bell is currently under construction in the western end of the city.
At the June meeting of the Whitesburg City Council Tuesday night, Mayor James Wiley Craft reported that while the rest of the county and much of the surrounding area have suffered economic declines, Whitesburg is working to move forward. He read a list of new jobs and providers that ranged from several in single digits to the 45 at Taco Bell.
Food City’s current $1-million expansion project will add 25 jobs and Mountain Comprehensive Healthcare has added 16. Several restaurants have contributed as well, with Heritage Kitchen adding 11 and Thirsty Heifer bringing six.
“We have come a long way from depression to where we can see daylight,” said Craft, adding that the city has paid off the tanker truck for the fire department and has purchased a new police cruiser that is fully paid for. “Whitesburg is a wonderful and beautiful town, and the council deserves credit.”
Craft used the occasion to thank Lee Anna Mullins and other women who help keep the downtown flowers fresh and beautiful, and added that the city took over the operation of the Letcher County Recycling Center for the good of the city as well as the entire county. Craft added that Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill and City Foreman Ken Sexton Jr. have been successful in applying for a $66,000 equipment grant for new equipment for the recycling center.
Craft gave full credit to the city council for its willingness to work with businesses and for its ability to see how the city can help businesses to expand. He said Whitesburg is becoming very attractive to people who want to visit and to do business and to live here, and said he believes the town’s future is bright.
Craft also reminded the council and others that country music star Lorrie Morgan will perform at the city’s July 4 celebration at the city park. He said that the city has added new fireworks to the already dazzling display, along with food, and inflatables for the children.
Craft’s statement on the city’s economic foundation was part of his budget message and he conducted the first reading of the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016- 2017. The total amount of the budget is $3.25 million, and Craft said the council will hold a special meeting before June 30 for the second reading. He added that council members can examine the budget and suggest any changes they think are necessary between now and the second reading.
In other business, Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering, which works with the city on water and sewer improvements, gave the council a list of capital improvement projects that starts with refurbishing the water treatment plant. A construction permit has been issued for the work on the plant. He also cited the need for a hydraulic study on the water distribution system to create a comprehensive plan to maintain and improve tanks and lines. Nesbitt said the city will need a complete overhaul of fire hydrants and the addition of radioread water meters to expedite water billing and save labor, and that mapping the point where wastewater from the new prison enters the city system will also be important for planning purposes. A number of old sewer lines will need to be rehabilitated as well.
Councilman James Bates mentioned that he has seen several roadblocks where children under 18 were helping collect money and he doesn’t believe that some of the roadblocks were sanctioned by the city. Sheila Shortt agreed and added that she has seen young kids holding up signs along KY 15 for car washes held as fundraisers at Long John Silver’s. Mayor Craft said both are clear violations of city policy and added that surely the management at Long John Silver’s is aware that it is liable if underage volunteers get hurt. He said he will see that the management is informed of the violation of city policy.
Kyle Smith and Leanne Mullins both entered requests for foot races in conjunction with the Mountain Heritage Festival. Smith asked for the date of September 10 for a 5K/10K race and Mullins asked for the day of the festival, September 24, to hold the first annual Fire Officers Memorial Run, a 3K run/walk to commemorate firefighters. Craft told them to put in a formal requests and he is sure they will be approved.
Danielle King, a public health practitioner who works with the organization Letcher County United for Substance Abuse Prevention (USAP), visited to remind the council that the public service video that the health department has prepared for release this week is complete. It is entitled “Keeping Our Communities Protected,” with the subtitle of “Practice Needle Safety,” and is sponsored by Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, UNITE, and the USAP.
The video’s premiere will be held at the Letcher County Extension Office on Thursday (June 16) at 6 p.m. King said the ability to get a needle exchange program underway will be heavily influenced by the turnout at the presentation and urged everyone to attend.